Chidambaram’s open letter to…Ashwani Kumar?

While reading all I could find about police and judicial reform, I came across this gem — a checklist of five ways to un-clog courts that are affected by severe arteriosclerosis. With apologies to the original publisher, quoting this in full:

  • There are several experienced judges in high courts on the verge of superannuation who because of their low seniority do not have a chance of being considered for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court. Many of them have excelled as trial and appellate judges on the civil side or the criminal side. Select 10 such judges and appoint them as ad-hoc judges of the Supreme Court. Let them sit as two – judge benches and hear the old cases only. The arrears of cases will be wiped out in about 500 working days. (By the way, this suggestion found a place in the 1991 Congress election manifesto.)
  • Repeat suggestion No.1 for high courts by choosing suitable district judges.
  • The chief justice of India, the attorney general, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and you should prepare a list of senior advocates who (waiving the age limit) are otherwise undoubtedly qualified to be high court judges. The chief justice should make them an offer and tell them they do not have the option of saying no! Each one should be asked to agree to serve for eight continuous weeks in a year, for five years, as an ad-hoc judge of a high court of his/her choice. It will be a form of compulsory service akin to military service. Many will accept and the few who may decline will invite public opprobrium.
  • Give two law clerks to every judge of the Supreme Court. Thank God, there are outstanding young men and women graduating from the National Law School, Bangalore, and some other universities. Let them clerk for two years each on a modest stipend. Once the law clerks are in place, the chief justice should make a rule that, in all cases listed for final hearing, the rival parties will submit written arguments (not exceeding 20 pages) two weeks in advance and limit oral arguments to one hour for each side. Once written submissions are filed, many of the cases will be concluded in 30 minutes.
  • Set up an in-house three-member panel (judge, lawyer, civil servant) to grant or refuse permission to file an appeal in the Supreme Court by any government department or agency. Just before filing the appeal paper-book in the Supreme Court, the intending appellant should present its paper-book to the panel and also be allowed to make brief submissions. If permission is refused, the appeal shall not be filed. No doubt this will add three days to the process but the advantages are manifold. Change the panel every year. Depending on your response to these suggestions, we can discuss long-and medium-term plans.
Make sense to you? More courts and speedier trials was, in fact, top of the list when Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy recently thought through urgently needed reforms.
Where did this set of solutions come from? An open letter written by P Chidambaram to then Federal Law Minister Arun Jaitley back in January 2001, and published by India Today. 12 years have passed, almost to the day. And here we are again, “discussing” judicial and police reform.
Why is it, do you suppose, that when you are in the political opposition you *always* know the right thing to do — and when you are the government, you *never* do?
PS: In good news of sorts, Manish points out on Twitter that one of these suggestions — the law clerk (item 4) is already in place.

2 thoughts on “Chidambaram’s open letter to…Ashwani Kumar?

  1. 8thJan2013.
    It is an irony that inspite of such think tanks at the helm of affiars, their views are not
    implemented. The suggestions of Mr. Chidambaram require to be seriously considered
    by the Bar, Bench , Public etc. The usefulness of the suggestions should be published
    and brought to the attention of atleast the Bar and the Bench. We require such forward
    thinking politicians.

  2. Great post. It is a tragedy that we have intelligent and capable politicians like Chidambaram, Jaitley etc but somehow our political environment does not allow them to translate ideas into actions. With politicians like Mulayam, Mayawati around and winning elections, a PM without authority, national leaders who are in the limelight only because they are wives/sons/daughters of some famous names, the situation appears a bit tough for us Indians. But the recent awakening of the public (e.g. Lokpal Bill agitation, post-Delhi gangrape protests) give us a glimmer of a hope. We just need to channelize it properly and fast for politicians to become more accountable and connected to the voters’ pulse and aspirations.

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