Justifying the present system of appointment of judges by selection by a collegium of judges, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan on Thursday made it clear that judiciary was not opposed to any change in the procedure by enactment of law.

In his Law Day address at the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the CJI said that “at present we are strictly following the Supreme Court judgments and the Constitution in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. We are not opposed to any change in the procedure. If Parliament brings [in] a law and if it is good for the country and the judiciary, we welcome it and we will accept it.”

The CJI was responding to the comments made earlier by SCBA president M.N. Krishnamani suggesting constitution of a National Judicial Commission for appointing judges on the ground that the collegium system had miserably failed.

Expressing concern over the arrears of cases, Justice Balakrishnan said that “as of September 30, 2009 there were 2,72,03,185 cases pending before subordinate courts all over the country, while 40,45,177 cases were pending before all High Courts taken together. With respect to the Supreme Court of India, as of October 31, 2009 there were 53,680 awaiting disposal.”

“Expert studies have suggested that our judicial strength is quite inadequate and a large expansion is needed to keep pace with the increasing rate of fresh institutions.”

Pointing out that various steps were being taken to address the issue, the CJI said “the sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court has been increased to 31 judges and 26 posts are occupied at present. Since there are a large number of vacancies in the High Courts, efforts are under way to identify suitable candidates and many of these vacancies will be filled soon. In fact a total of 87 judges have been appointed to the High Courts this year. As far as subordinate courts are concerned, there were 3,129 vacancies as of January 1, 2009 which had been reduced to 2,746 vacancies by the end of June 2009.”

Litigation policy

Justice Balakrishnan said a ‘National Litigation Policy’ was being designed wherein administrative remedies would be strengthened in order to reduce the burden of courts. “A comprehensive legislation dealing with standards and accountability in the higher judiciary is also on the anvil.”

Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily said steps were being taken to ensure that a case was disposed of in three years from the date of institution. Pointing out that large number of undertrials were languishing in prisons, he said it had been proposed to bring down the number by 2/3rd within six months i.e. by June 30, 2010 with the cooperation of the State governments and the judiciary.

Mr. Krishnamani wanted Mr. Moily to consider changes in the procedure of appointment of judges. He said initially a Search Committee could be formed for selection of judges.

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati suggested fixing time limit for oral arguments in final hearing matters as was being done in the U.S. and other countries.

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