The government think tank NITI Aayog has suggested establishment of a judicial performance index to check delay in finalisation of cases in lower judiciary. It has also recommended streamlining judicial appointments through an online system. "The first step (towards judicial reforms) would be to establish a judicial performance index. Such an index could be established to help high courts and high court chief justices keep track of performance and process improvement at the district courts and subordinate levels for reducing delay," it said in a report released recently. This would require fixing non-mandatory time frames for different types of cases as broad guidelines to benchmark when a case has been delayed, it said. "Using existing infrastructure and data, indicators could be created to see how long cases have been pending, what percentage of cases have been delayed and how many cases were disposed in the last year compared to the year before," according to the 'Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019- 20'. It suggested study of internationally developed measures such as 'global measures of court performance', created jointly by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, the Federal Judicial Center (US), the National Center for State Courts (US) and the Subordinate Courts of Singapore. "The index can also include certain progress on process steps that have already been approved by high courts, like burden of day-to-day activity being removed from judges and given to administrative officials. "This annual evaluation should give judges in high courts and district courts a sense of where they are failing and what they need to fix.
Since the subordinate judiciary is largely within the domain of the high courts, this could also spur competitive reform of the judiciary in those states," the report said. The Niti Aayog report has suggested shifting some workload out of the regular court system and introduction of an administrative cadre in the judicial system. "To maintain judicial independence, the cadre should report in to the chief justice in each high court. Currently, judges also handle many administrative responsibilities, which reduce the time available to them for hearing cases and writing judgements," it said. The Aayog said high priority should be given to court process automation and information and communication technology enablement for electronic court and case management, including electronic management of court schedules and migration of all courts to the unified national court application software. "Steps may also be taken for ensuring availability of online real time judicial statistics for determining the adequacy of judicial manpower and infrastructure to deal with work load of cases, which will enable priority appointment of judges at the lower judiciary levels keeping in mind a scientific approach to assessing the number of judges needed to tackle the pendency problem," it said.