The massive backlog of cases in courts diminishes India’s democracy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.
“We have a free press, a truly independent judiciary and independent institutions like the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General which underpin our democratic framework…. However, all these strengths are somewhat diminished by arrears and backlog of cases at every level of our judicial system,” he said.
Singh was speaking at a national convention — held after 21 years — on “Law, Justice and The Common Man” organised by the All India Congress Com-mittee’s legal and human rights department, headed by party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
At present, there are about 3 crore cases pending in various courts in the country.
Singh said the Congress-led UPA government has passed the Gram Nyayalaya Act, which when fully implemented, will establish more than 5,000 courts at the intermediate panchayat level, besides establishing 71 additional CBI Courts in different states.
“These will bring justice to the doorstep of the common people,” he said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi also voiced similar concerns. She said legislations such as the Gram Nyayalaya Act would usher in a revolution in handling and disposing of cases in a speedy and affordable manner and also bringing meaningful justice to the aam aadmi.
“Through legislative reforms, we have sought to put pressure on the executive to ensure greater accountability. We do not believe in hollow promises. We have taken action to make government more transparent,” Gandhi said and cautioned laws “are little more than words on paper” if not enforced.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stressed the need for strengthening institutions such as the judiciary as these are facing tremendous burdens. “The first challenge before the country is to improve delivery mechanisms which are very poor,” he said.
Earlier, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the Congress should create a national data bank of lawyers associated with the party to help train them in various fields and ultimately bond them with the “mainstream of judiciary”.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram dwelt on terrorism, Maoist violence, human rights and social evils in society.
He said the capacity of terrorists operating from across the border to strike Indian cities was high as they get support from a state and reiterated his warning to Pakistan that India will respond swiftly and decisively in the event of another 26/11-type terror attack.
On his part, Singhvi said the conference aims to reconnect the legal community and human rights activists whose bond with the Congress is unbreakable. “The conference is not about the substantive law. It deals with major irritants to the common man in quest of law and justice,” he said.
Union ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde, C.P. Joshi, Mukul Wasnik, Prithviraj Chavan, and Krishna Tirath, chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati were among those who attended the convention.