What is a quasi judicial agency?
- Quasi-judicial refers to a proceeding conducted by an administrative or executive official or organization that is similar to a court proceeding, E.g. a hearing conducted by a human rights commission.
- These are generally handled by the revenue authorities and largely relate to land, tenancy, excise, arms, mining, or preventive functions under the Criminal Procedure Code.
Why in the news?
- The failure of quasi judicial bodies to administer speedy justice leads to harassment of citizens, besides encouraging criminal activity by unscrupulous elements.
- Making adjudication by administrative authorities timely, accessible and affordable is needed to ensure ease of living by the citizens.
Issues surrounding quasi judicial bodies
- Understaffed: Many of these offices are understaffed.
- Limited time for court work: They are staffed by revenue authorities whose engagement with duties such as law and order, protocol, coordination and other administrative functions leaves them with much less time for court work.
- Limited accessibility: Their access to court clerks and record keepers is limited. Computers and video recorders are not available in many of these courts.
- Only a few states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have electronic platforms for supporting activities such as the filing of cases, publication of cause lists and sending summons.
- Lacks expertise: Several of the presiding officers lack proper knowledge of law and procedures.
- Lack of adequate supervision and ownership by the administrative and political leadership.
- Data on the level of pendency or the speed of disposal is not compiled in many states.
How can their status be improved?
- A multi-pronged action plan inclusive of legal, governance and HR reforms is required to move ahead.
- The government should make the efficient functioning of these agencies a priority and clearly articulate its position on the issue.
- Detailed data on the functioning of these agencies must be collected and published from time to time at least annually.
- An electronic platform should be established to handle all ancillary work related to the administration of justice, such as filing of complaints, issue of summons, movement of case records between courts, issuing copies of the judgments and so on.
- Annual inspections of the subordinate courts should be made mandatory.
- Interdisciplinary research on the functioning of these courts should be encouraged.
- Regular training and customized orientation of the adjudicating authorities should be taken up from time to time.
- The state index of performance of these quasi-judicial courts be made and published.
- Important decisions, guidelines and directions could be compiled and published on the portal of the apex adjudicating forum such as the Board of Revenue.
- More rigorous induction training of officials handling judicial work would help.
- Procedural reforms such as minimizing adjournments, mandatory filing of written arguments and other such reforms proposed by bodies like the Law Commission for reform of the Civil Procedure Code should be adopted by these adjudicating bodies.
Impact of these reforms
- Proper and prompt data compilation can be used to enforce accountability.
- Electronic data keeping could establish a sound basis for analyzing the functioning of these bodies and facilitate the publication of statistics.
- Interdisciplinary research would identify the areas of improvement such as legal reforms or issue of clear guidelines.
Performance index would draw the attention of the states to their performance in comparison to others and help them identify areas of weakness.