Page last updated at 05:34 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 06:34 UK

Indian PM plea on justice backlog

Scales of justice
The Indian judicial system is notoriously slow

Indian PM Manmohan Singh has urged the country's judiciary to address the massive backlog of pending cases, which he says is the biggest in the world.

Official figures show that more than 30 million cases are pending in Indian courts - some since 1950.

Mr Singh said clearing the cases was the biggest challenge facing the country's judiciary.

The backlog has been blamed on the number of vacancies for judges and on archaic laws.

Earlier this year, the chief justice of the Indian capital's High Court created a stir when he said it could take up to 466 years to clear the backlog in his court alone.

"The focus of the judicial system should be to wipe every tear of every waiting litigant," Mr Singh told a meeting of chief ministers and judges.

He called for the modernisation of courts and for linking them through a computerised grid.

Village courts

Mr Singh said that the government was planning to set up more than 5,000 village courts.

"This will bring justice to the doorsteps of the common people who currently feel that getting justice in India is not only time-consuming and costly, but sometimes also an intractable proposition," the prime minister said.

India's Chief Justice KG Balakrishanan said structural obstacles discouraged talented law graduates from joining India's judiciary.

The large backlog of court cases in India has often been blamed on lack of resources.

But a report by the Delhi High Court this year argued that inefficiency, corruption, lack of willpower and accountability are all factors that compound the problem.

Experts say another reason for the backlog is the quality of judicial appointees.

Also, the judges argue they have far too much work to handle even though they are making every effort to administer justice as speedily and efficiently as possible.

Critics argue that simplification of many laws is needed and that the whole legal process is out of date and long-winded.

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