Judges must be trained to commit to ‘outcome date certainty’.
No one can disagree with the CJI when he says judges spending more time in court will result in a lower case backlog. But this is a very linear understanding of the problem as one of increasing throughput. This is a partial and incomplete way to understand delay and congestion in the court system.
The issue is not just about having more court time. We need to assess how we can change and improve the manner in which the court time is used. First, there must be a sharper delineation of the back office administrative functions (the registry) and the judicial front office functions (the court). By ensuring that the registry is empowered and accountable, the court time will be effectively used.
Second, judges must be trained to commit to ‘outcome date certainty’. If a petitioner who files a case is sure about the court calendar and when their case will be decided without fail, then the incentive to litigation will self-regulate. If the petitioner knows that by filing a petition, they can potentially lock up the case for a decade or so, they would exploit this. If there is a certainty that the verdict will be pronounced in the next two-three years, this will keep them from filing cases and encourage them to settle cases. So, more cases will be settled out of court and fewer cases will be filed. This will check the backlog.
Third, it is interesting that the term ‘judicial discipline’ is often used in administrative terms where curtailing leave and regulation work hours are the focus. A better way to emphasise judicial discipline would be to ensure adherence to precedent. One reason why petitioners may take their chance with a court is because they know a judge may not follow previously decided similar cases. If precedent is strictly followed, it will restore some predictability and lead to quick disposal of cases. If the CJI can lead from the front in these ways, we may well see tangible results before the end of his term.
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