PM Backs CJI On Special Courts To Try Corruption Cases

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New Delhi, Apr 19 (UNI) With more than 24,000 corruption-related cases pending in Indian trial courts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today underscored creating ''special courts to deal with'' the scourge.

Inaugurating a joint conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Chief Justices of High Courts at Vigyan Bhavan, Dr Singh said the suggestion came from India's Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.

''I agree that there is urgent need to do so,'' the Prime Minister told delegates to the two-day conference, an annual exercise intended to produce ''better administration of justice'' across the nation.

A count at the end of 2007 showed at least 24,130 cases under Prevention of Corruption Act were pending in Indian trial courts.

Justice Balakrishnan shared the dais with him as did Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj, Minister of State for Law and Justice K Venkatapathy and Department of Justice Secretary Madhukar Gupta.

Dr Singh's remarks follow recommendations by the Chief Justices of India's 21 High Courts that as far as possible Special Judges appointed under the Act hold trial of such cases on a day-to-day basis.

''It is also necessary to ensure that Special Judges appointed under Prevention of Corruption Act deal only with corruption cases,'' the Chief Justices held.

Concern-- both expert and public-- about India's justice delivery system has grown rapidly over the past several years, bringing into question courts' ability to dispense justice given huge pendencies contributing to inordinate delays.

Notes on Agenda Items before the delegates have warned that unless ''something'' is done about delays in justice delivery and huge case arrears, ''the whole system would get crushed under its weight.'' Indian courts have close to 30 million cases pending and while experts have been calling for quadrupling the number of judges, a large number of sanctioned posts remain vacant.

The 39-page Agenda Notes for the joint conference did not use the word 'corruption,' which figured eminently though in a conference of Chief Justices which preceded the annual event.

As Dr Singh put it, ''apart from pendency and delayed justice, corruption is another challenge we face both in government and the juiciary.

''The Chief Justice of India has written to me suggesting that we create Special Courts to deal with corruption cases. I agree that there is urgent need to do so. This will instill greater confidence in our justice delivery system, at home and abroad.'' A resolution adopted by The Chief Justices resolved yesterday that ''Special Judges appointed under Prevention of Corruption Act shall deal primarily with corruption cases and as far as possible hold trial of such cases on a day-to-day basis.'' Prime Minister Singh started by acknowledging the apparently intractable issue of huge case pendencies, which he said had figured very prominently in ''all the previous Conferences.'' ''Let me, therefore, reiterate at the very outset that this continues to remain a key challenge before us. We must work together to bring an end to this era of delayed justice. For, justice delayed can often mean justice denied.'' Dr Singh said leaders of judiciary and the Law and Justice Ministry ''are alive to this issue and sensitive to the problems that arise as a consequence. They have been taking a variety of measures to see to it that pendency comes down.'' But ''I am informed by the Ministry'' that ''a larger number of cases are being registered than the number of cases being disposed of. Pendency will, therefore, continue to increase unless special measures are taken.'' One solution suggested is to increase the number of judicial officers and judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, Dr Singh noted.

''There is clearly merit in this,'' he said, adding that 152 new posts of High Court judges were created recently and an increase in the number of Supreme Court judges ''is also being undertaken.'' Dr Singh did not specify the Law Commission recommendation made two decades ago to quadruple the number of judges-- currently estimated around 15,000.

He said the Central government has drawn the attention of the State governments to the need to urgently increase the strength of judicial officers at district and subordinate levels.

Dr Singh said some State governments recognise this and have taken measures and ''others would and should also need to do so.'' He also spoke of attending to the infrastructural needs of courts some of which suffer from ''a severe congestion'' and ''in many places have a sorry look about them.'' Dr Singh offered Central help to State governments in constructing new court buildings and homes for judges.

He touched on ''delays'' in utilisation of funds provided by the Central government to the States and urged the CMs present to ''personally address this problem.'' Dr Singh also suggested training to upgrade skills and capabilities of ''judicial officers and others in the legal profession.'' He spoke of Indian potential to provide world class professionals in the legal profession ''and we must aspire to do so. We, therefore, need a broad, viable national strategy for legal and judicial training that will place India firmly on the global map in the field of legal services.'' MORE UNI MJ RSA RAI2051

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