The Bombay High Court has passed some landmark directions while hearing a batch of petitions concerning issues of infrastructure of civil and criminal courts in the state, along with co-operative courts, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal and consumer fora at the state and district levels.
Before passing directions in the 220-page judgment, a division bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice AA Sayed noted that almost all courts and tribunals in the state suffer from overflow of dockets and also poor infrastructure.
There are 407 court complexes in the state of traditional civil and criminal courts, out of which 72 are on properties taken on rent. Following are the figures available on the National Judicial Data Grids as on May 2017:
*Total number of cases in civil courts, criminal courts, co-operative courts, co-operative appellate courts, labour courts, industrial courts as well as family courts in the state of Maharashtra
The bench also stated the legal position as to the state’s obligation to provide infrastructure to the judiciary in light of Article 39 A of the Constitution which comes under Directive Principles of State policy.
The Supreme Court’s observations in the case of Brij Mohan Lal vs Union of India and Others clearly highlight this obligation on part of the state government.
In an affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice before the Supreme Court in the case of Imtiyaz Ahmed vs State of UP and Ors, it is stated that the Department of Justice (DoJ) proposed a requirement of Rs 9,749 crore in order to meet the needs of the state judiciary.
The 14th Finance Commission endorsed these proposals by the DoJ and urged state governments to use the additional fiscal allocation provided in form of tax devolution to meet requirements of state judiciaries.
Apart from directions reminding the state government of its obligation to provide necessary funding towards court infrastructure, the bench issued following directions that are significant:
(i) The state shall sanction requisite number of additional posts of judges as directed in the decision of the apex court in the case of Imtiyaz Ahmed. Also, the state shall ensure that funds allocated under the 14th Finance Commission from 2015 to 2020 to the judiciary in Maharashtra are promptly released.
(ii) The state shall implement e¬Court project in state commission and district Fora on the lines of the e¬Court Phase I and Phase II devised by e-Committee of the apex court for the civil and criminal courts in India. The state government shall start the process of digitisation of the record of the state commission and the district fora and to provide facility of e-filing. It is also necessary to have a dedicated website of the state commission and the district fora in the state.
(iii) A separate cadre shall be formed for the staff of the co-operative courts and co-operative appellate courts in the state. The cadre must be separate from the Co-operation Department.
(iv) The Public Works Department make a survey of all court complexes in the state for ascertaining whether it is possible to dig bore wells and/or to set up plants for recycling of waste water generated by the court complex, which can be used for gardening/cleaning. This exercise shall be completed within six months from today. Wherever feasible, the work of digging bore wells, fixing pumps or setting up waste water recycling plants shall be completed within a period of one year from today. This will ensure that the court complexes have their own additional source of water supply.
(v) Directions regarding cleanliness of court complexes in the state, security of court complexes, conducting structural audits of court buildings from time to time were also passed.
(vi) We hold that that it is necessary to ensure that all the facilities in the court complexes in the state are easily accessible for persons with disabilities in the light of the principles laid down under the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
We direct the Registrar-General to invite attention of the building committee of this court to the aforesaid direction so that appropriate policy decision can be taken and directions can be issued to all the principal district judges and principal judges to take steps for making the court complexes, including court rooms, disabled friendly.
The petitions were listed on August 11 for reporting compliance towards directions.
Read the Judgment here.