Delhi’s electorate gave a verdict overwhelmingly in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday, resting faith in the upstart to deliver a world-class city with improved services – including a more robust judicial system.
With a party chief in Arvind Kejriwal who spent many days in and out of the city’s courtrooms over the past two years, perhaps no other political group was better placed than the AAP to recognise the challenges facing the judiciary.
Delhi’s subordinate courts are groaning under a massive backlog of more than 522,000 cases, with a mere 483 judges striving to clear them while 275 positions lie vacant.
However, experts say the promises on law and justice in the party’s manifesto, assuring everything from new courts to six-month trials, are largely “inconsequential.”
Government counsels HT spoke to said in jest they would have to reconsider appearing for the State if the AAP pushes for adjournment-free proceedings.
“It’s a nice thought, but highly impractical,” said a Supreme Court lawyer.
The party’s 2015 manifesto also promises new judges as well as new courtrooms to deal with “all cases within six months”.
Retired high court judge SN Dhingra said the idea, though well-intentioned, was fantastical at best and the party should first take stock of the resources available.
“New judges need to pass exams, they will require minimum one years’ training, courtrooms to sit in and court staff. All the courts we have now are full, and we are short on trained judges,” he said.
Governments have tried to set up fast-track courts to deal with sensational cases like the December 2012 gang-rape, but experts say this has only increased the burden on India’s lumbering judicial system.
Supreme Court lawyer Apar Gupta questioned the AAP’s blanket promise to do away with judicial backlog without a data-driven approach to comprehend which cases constitute "the bulk of the pendency".
Court proceedings will be recorded on video and the footage made available to the citizens, says AAP. Former law minister and party leader Somnath Bharti had in an email last year asked the media to remind him of the AAP’s promise to implement this measure within “15-20 days of our (AAP) resuming office".
While experts support the party, even Dhingra, who had in a landmark judgment strongly advocated for recording in courts, pointed out that the issue was dismissed by the Supreme Court only a few months ago.