21st MAY 2018
Q1. The informal summit at Wuhan must be seen as a Chinese effort to assert its global presence and not as India-China talk to resolve border and sovereignty issues. Comment.
- China is today at a pivotal moment in its history, having embarked on preparations for a pole position in the global sweepstakes. The U.S. and the West are not ready to openly confront China, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. China currently has a vital role to play in the maintenance of peace in the Korean Peninsula, and in ensuring that the forthcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un talks are not jeopardised. The China-Russia equation today is much stronger than previously. China may be feared in East and South Asia, but no country here has the capacity to challenge China. It has established new equations in West Asia, including with Iran. In the South Asian neighbourhood, China is positioning itself as an alternative to India.
- China is positioning itself for bigger things and to play bigger roles. This period is thus a defining one for China. Behind the rubric of a looming trade war between the U.S. and China — which is, without doubt, one of China’s major concerns — is China’s unstated struggle to redefine the rules governing economic and power relations worldwide. At a time when the U.S. is busy lining up the vast majority of Western democracies to checkmate China’s advance, the latter is equally anxious to build support in its favour in Asia and elsewhere to counter the U.S.
- The India-China reset talks must, therefore, be seen in this wider perspective and context. It cannot be seen in isolation. At about the same time, on the India-China reset talks, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was in Tokyo to meet his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe as part of a major two-stage initiative. The Li-Abe meeting has reportedly helped remove many of the cobwebs in China-Japan trade and strategic relations. Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea also met in Japan at about the same time to devise measures that were needed to move ahead with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (India is a part of the RCEP, but a reinvigorated RCEP, alongside a China-Japan reset does not augur well for India).
- It should not, therefore, be surprising that in spite of China’s acquiescence in an informal summit, the report card from Wuhan does not add up to much in real terms. No manifest concessions appear to have been made by China. The Doklam issue (which was not discussed at the summit) remains unresolved, with China still in the driving seat. There are no indications that China has softened its attitude vis-à-vis India’s position in Arunachal Pradesh, or that it will refrain from accusing India of further transgressions here.China’s penetration of India’s neighbourhood is set to continue, with special emphasis on countries such as Nepal and the Maldives. China again has not conceded anything with reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India may believe that it has demonstrated good faith by putting certain curbs on the Dalai Lama’s activities, but this is hardly likely to satisfy China’s concerns about his role.
- Beijing’s defence budget for 2018 is being increased by 8.1% over that of the previous year, and is in keeping with the decision of the Chinese 19th Party Congress (October 2017) to build a world class military. Mr. Li is on record that China would now focus on building strong naval and air defences, bolstered by the infusion of high technology. This can only further encourage China to expand its activities in the Indian Ocean region.
Q2. Discuss how case listing practices and court infrastructure contribute the high number of pending cases in the courts in India. Suggest solutions to overcome the issue.
- While there is general acceptance that the Indian judicial system suffers from case delay and the use of antiquated methods, the discourse on judicial reform remains focussed on areas such as appointments and vacancies. It is time that organisational barriers and court processes that also contribute to case delay are studied. Two areas that greatly affect court efficiency: case listing practices and court infrastructure.
- The need to scientifically determine how many cases should be listed per day cannot be stressed enough. It is not uncommon to see over 100 matters listed before a judge in a day. When a judge is pressed for time, not only does the quality of adjudication suffer but it also means that several cases will inevitably go unheard. Matters listed towards the end (usually cases near the final stage of hearing) tend to be left over at disproportionate rates and often end up getting stuck in the system.
- The consequences are manifold, affecting judges, lawyers, registry staff and, ultimately, case disposal. The uncertainty around which cases will come up for hearing means neither judges nor lawyers can plan their preparation. This situation compels lawyers to waste time waiting in court and enables them to cite the simultaneous listing of multiple cases as an excuse for adjournments. Registry staff must manage the massive task of re-listing leftover matters in an already bulging docket, instead of streamlining case flow.
- The second issue is infrastructure: from inadequate support staff for judges to the dearth of basic courtroom facilities. Without research and secretarial support, judges are unable to perform their functions in a timely manner. For instance, in a private interview, a judge said that even though he managed to hear close to 70 cases in a day, it took two days for the stenographers to finish typing the orders. A 2016 report published by the Supreme Court showed that existing infrastructure could accommodate only 15,540 judicial officers against the all-India sanctioned strength of 20,558. The lack of infrastructure also raises serious concerns about access to justice.
- A recent Vidhi study on district courts in the National Capital Region found that even basic needs such as drinking water, usable washrooms, seating and canteen facilities are often not available in court complexes.
- Solutions for such challenges will require a fundamental shift in how courts are administered.
- Courts must become more open to applying management principles to optimise case movement and judicial time. In this, external support agencies competent in strategic thinking should be allowed to work with judicial officers to understand and help the institution function better. This is already a widely-adopted practice in executive departments across the country. Courts have partially realised this need and created dedicated posts for court managers (MBA graduates) to help improve court operations. But more often than not, court managers are not utilised to their full potential, with their duties restricted to organising court events and running errands.
- Judicial policymakers will also have to expand their reliance on empirical data and courtroom technology. On the former, there appears to be little quantitative evidence available to back judicial policies, from how long cases at various stages actually stay in the case pipeline to audits of judicial infrastructure. Recording and analysing appropriate court-related data is thus the first step in addressing any problem that plagues courts — from arriving at reasonable case listing limits to improving infrastructure.Second, court processes must be modernised, and the role of technology is critical. Courts have taken various initiatives over the years to digitise case records and filing; the case information system (CIS) 2.0 is currently being implemented across the country. But as a judge rightly pointed out, using technology in courts cannot remain limited to digitising records alone but must affect how cases actually move through the system. Initiatives such as CIS must be supplemented with file-tracking and knowledge management systems, to help courts achieve an optimal level of functioning.
- For courts in India to dispense speedy justice, there must be a change in leadership thought and the willingness to seek help where it is evidently required.