In order to further strengthen the justice delivery system, Gujarat needs to take steps like filling up vacancies of judges, resolving cases and recruiting more women judges in subordinate courts, the report said.
Gujarat has been ranked eighth among eighteen large and mid-sized states on the capacity of justice delivery system, as per the India Justice Report-2019 prepared by Tata Trusts. While the state is ranked eighth in terms of overall functioning of four pillars of the justice delivery system, namely police, prisons, judiciary and legal aid, it is ranked 12th in terms of functioning of police, 9th in prisons, 7th in judiciary and 6th in legal aid, as per the report, which was shared with the media at Gujarat National Law University here on Saturday.
In order to further strengthen the justice delivery system, Gujarat needs to take steps like filling up vacancies of judges, resolving cases and recruiting more women judges in subordinate courts, the report said. It added that steps like filling up the gaps in caste reservation in police, keeping up the momentum of increasing the share of women in police force, filling up prison staff and prison cadre vacancies, checking undertrial population and improving overall legal services clinics also need to taken.
The report said undertrials in state prisons account for nearly two-third of total inmates, which needs to be checked, adding that the vacancy level of prison officers has also been increasing over the years.
Further, only 15 per cent of subordinate judges are women in Gujarat, making it the third lowest among eighteen large and mid-sized states of the country. Gujarat also had the fifth highest backlog in subordinate courts among the ranked states, and it needs to work on steps to reduce it, the report added.
Even with improvements in filling up judge vacancies and clearance rates, it would take an average of 9.3 years to settle a case in Gujarat’s lower courts, it further said. The report also observed that the state has pressing levels of judge vacancies in both the high court as well as lower courts. These vacancies increased to 42 per cent in the high court in 2017-18, while it dropped to 27 per cent in subordinate courts during the same year.
The state also utilised less than 80 per cent of the funds given by NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) for legal aid activities, awareness and advice. It pointed out that Gujarat has, however, reported improvements on various yardsticks over the last few years, especially in terms of increasing number of women judges of the high court, reducing vacancies of judges in subordinate courts, as well as officers and constables in the police department. There has been significant improvement in the number of women in police force, which has been made possible with the introduction of 33 per cent reservation in 2014 by then chief minister Anandiben Patel. From 7.2 per cent in 2017, women account for 11.5 per cent in the police force as on 2019, the report showed.
“As the report suggests, the system requires a lot of improvements,” said Justice (retired) Mohit Shah, former chief justice of Bombay High Court, while unveiling the report.
Among eighteen large and mid-level states surveyed by the report, Maharashtra tops the list, followed by Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana. Among states with a population of less than one crore, Goa was ranked first followed by Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh. The report is based on publicly available data of entities like police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid.
To arrive at the rankings, the report looked at indicators like infrastructure, human resources, diversity (gender, SC/ST/OBC), budgets, workload and trends over the last five years. The ranking is an initiative of Tata Trusts in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS- Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.