GS (M) Paper-2: “Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary”
Examining the Funding Deficit of Judiciary
The statement by the chief justice of India a few days back about how the judiciary is not receiving enough funds once again brings to the fore the friction between the judiciary and the government.
Spending on the judiciary:
- Even back in the 1980s, the 127th Law Commission had complained the poor quality of infrastructure with which the courts have to make do in their functioning. And that administration of justice is not regarded as part of developmental activity.
- India currently spends about Rs12,000 crore a year on the judiciary. This amounts to about 0.01% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Is the current spending sufficient?
- Being a sovereign function (that which cannot be performed by private parties), it is difficult to compare budgetary allocation to the judiciary with other sectors.
- A committee of the Supreme Court compared it to allocations for health and education and found it to be much lower.
- For example, 2.8% of the annual expenditure by the state of Maharashtra was on the judiciary while on health it was 14%. Gujarat’s spending was 0.6% on the judiciary and 2.92% on health.
- The judiciary is funded mostly by the states—who historically haven’t had too much to spend at their discretion given the Centrally-sponsored schemes of the Union government.
Task Force on Judicial Impact Assessment:
- It was against this background that the “Report of the Task Force on Judicial Impact Assessment” had asked that a judicial impact office be created in Delhi and state capitals to estimate the extra case load and extra expenditure on the courts to be incurred on account of Central and state legislation, respectively.
- Apart from some primary recommendation on data-gathering techniques being improved, none of the other recommendations has been implemented.
- It’s in this scenario that the e-courts project has been funded by the Centre for over 15 years now.
- In a stark reminder of ground realities, out of the special grant of Rs 5,000 crore by the 13th Finance Commission for improving judicial infrastructure and services, almost 80% remained unspent.
- So when a request for an around Rs9,000 crore grant was made to the 14th Finance Commission in 2014, it was no surprise that it “endorsed the proposal of the Department and urged state governments to use the additional fiscal space provided by the commission in the tax devolution to meet such requirements”.
- The responsibility is now completely on state governments to prioritize funding to the courts.
- The annual spending of 0.01% of GDP looks even more bare when looked at from the perspective of cross subsidies.
- In essence, it means that the expenditure incurred for administration of justice is actually for the purpose of achieving the objectives of, and administering, the laws framed by other ministries.
Judicial costing on the country:
- Conservative estimates by DAKSH, a civil society, are that about 0.5% of the GDP is incurred by litigants only on attending to court hearings, excluding legal fees.
- It could be as much as 1.5% to 2%. A holistic estimation of costs of delay to society begs to be carried out.
- There is no dispute that budgetary allocation needs to be increased, and quite substantially at that.
- As with all other problems, there is a need to move from outlay-based budgeting to outcome-based budgeting.
- Some rough calculations indicate that the states are spending on an average Rs1,600-2,700 per case per year.
- In spite of similar budgetary spending, we know that the time taken for disposals varies widely between states.
- More judges, more courts, more computers alone may not do much to improve the efficiency of courts or access to justice.
- This can only be achieved by re-engineering, re-imagining court processes, widespread use of technology and reforms in substantive law.
- A beginning can be made by improving the budgeting process. As any efficient administrator or manager knows, a good budget starts with a plan.
- The larger issue being played out is the lack of independence to the judiciary allowed in practice by the legislature.
GS (M) Paper-2: “Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.”
The nowhere people
- An increasing number of people globally are facing displacement due to droughts, famines, rising sea levels and other natural disasters caused by climate change.
- This class of migrants has been labelled as ‘environmental refugees’ in popular literature.
- According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an international body reviewing trends of internal displacement, an estimated 24 million people are being displaced annually by natural disasters since 2008.
- This crisis will make almost half a billion people worldwide “environmental refugees” by the end of the century.
Current status of the rights of environmental migrants:
- The UN Refugee Convention (1951) grants certain rights to people fleeing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a particular social group, or political opinion.
- The rights they are entitled to follow principles of non-discrimination, non-penalisation, and non-refoulement.
- However, people migrating due to environmental disasters have no such recognition of their ‘refugee’ status in international law, leaving them without any basic rights of rehabilitation and compensation.
The Paris let-down:
- Before the negotiations commenced, numerous demands were made to incorporate ways to tackle climate migration in the final agreement.
- These included recognising the threat posed by climate change to livelihoods and human safety, and environmental refugees or migrants affected by climate change; providing technical and capacity building support to national and local initiatives tackling such displacement; and developing suitable policies to manage loss and damage by addressing climate change-induced displacement.
- However, the Paris Agreement falls considerably short of these expectations. While some hail this agreement for alluding to the rights of ‘migrants’ in its Preamble, it is an anaemic attempt at appreciating the gravity of this crisis.
Provisions in Paris Deal:
- The agreement, in Paragraph 50 of the Loss and Damage section, creates a task force to build upon existing work and develop recommendations for addressing climate migration.
- But this is meaningless for two main reasons — first, the recommendations of the task force have no binding authority; and second, no details are provided on its functions, operations, funding and other aspects.
- This ambiguity further erodes confidence in the realistic capability of this task force to effectively tackle climate migration.
- The draft of the Paris Agreement discussed before COP 21 provided for a Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility.
- This facility was intended to target organised migration and planned relocation of displaced persons, securing emergency relief, and arranging compensation for those displaced — actions more meaningful than those of the task force in the Paris Agreement.
- Unfortunately, this coordination facility did not make it to the final text of the agreement, but it may be worthwhile to reconsider its establishment.
- A permanent solution requires an international treaty framework that recognises ‘environmental refugees’ and the obligations of nation states in accommodating them within their territories.
- This scenario can be averted by either expanding the ambit of the existing UN Refugee Convention to include climate migration, or by creating an independent treaty framework addressing the challenges of climate change-induced migration comprehensively.
It should be in their collective interest to lead efforts on finding an international resolution to this problem before the ensuing harm becomes irreparable.[Ref: The Hindu]