The reform agenda for new law minister law minister D V Sadananda Gowda, who took charge on Monday, has apparently been set by his predecessor and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The law ministry has initiated several steps including set up a national judicial grid --- one stop portal to check status of cases filed anywhere in the country, increasing the posts of high court judges and approving money for construction modern district courts.
The grid --- a convergence of law and information technology ministries --- will start with Supreme Court and High Courts and subsequently district courts would be integrated in the national information gateway. Ministry officials said integration will not be difficult as the Supreme Court and all High Courts are fully computerised and they update all judicial information on their websites regularly.
Prasad had also initiated the process to get the Supreme Court order on fast track trial of pending criminal cases against political leaders. He has written to all chief justices of high courts to put these cases of high speed. Ministry officials said that some of these cases have already been disposed off but does not have data on the number.
Three states --- Goa, Rajasthan and Tripura --- have also given consent to the Constitutional Amendment Bill to set up National Judicial Commission approved in the last Parliament session. The ministry expects that the requisite approval from half of the states to enact the law would happen by end of this year. Certain Constitutional Amendment Bills needs approval of atleast half of the legislative assemblies in the country.
And one of the first jobs of the commission will be to appoint judges in higher judiciary --- Supreme Court and High Court. The ministry has already decided to increase the number of posts from existing 900 to over 1,100. “The commission will decide on these appointments including the vacant posts in the higher judiciary,” a government functionary said.
On reducing the pendency of cases in lower judiciary the ministry has already approved funds for constructing over 200 modern courts across India. He has also asked the state high courts to identify talents young advocates who could be appointed in the lower judiciary to fill up a large number of vacant posts.
Gowda outlined similar priorities while taking and said that he would try to reduce pendency of cases. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said with another union minister from Karnataka Ananth Kumar sitting beside him in Shastri Bhawan, about 100 meters away his office as Railway Minister in Rail Bhawan opposite Parliament.