‘Backlog can be cleared only with more judges’

April 25, 2016 02:20 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Chief Justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur said on Sunday that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, heading the Group of Ministers, who was then travelling abroad, spoke to him to ascertain whether the Collegium’s response on the revised memorandum of procedures for judicial appointments in the High Courts was ready.

“The response is ready. Now, she is back. We will be sending the comments and may be meet her,” the CJI said at a press conference.

Chief Justice Thakur said the only solution to clear the backlog of cases was to increase the number of judges, as recommended by the Law Commission in 1987 and agreed to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to the Prime Minister’s suggestion on reducing annual holidays, the CJI said: “It is a stressful job... Do you think that during three-week vacations, we go to Manali or for trekking? When do you write Constitution Bench judgments? Justice [Jagdish Singh] Khehar served his last vacation writing a judgment. He even took leave.”

He said lawyers did not want to work during vacations. He had asked the Supreme Court Bar Association to give the names of lawyers who wanted to take up cases during vacations, but no list had come.

Stressing that the government had taken initiatives to fill vacancies in the judiciary, Law Minister D. V. Sadananda Gowda said: “In High Courts, already 25 per cent of the strength has been enhanced. When it comes to the lower judiciary, the State government and the High Courts have to take care of the things. Of course, the [Central] government has to take some more initiatives.”

Mr. Gowda said it would take four to five months to finalise the memorandum of procedure, but 145 appointments had been cleared in the meantime. “However, of these, 90 persons were already working. They were additional judges and were made permanent. It was not a major relief,” the CJI said.

Delay in appointments

As for the delay in appointments, the Law Minister said certain procedures needed to be followed.

“We have to get the report from the Intelligence Bureau, get opinion from the offices concerned and then send the names to the Chief Ministers for their opinion. It takes time.”

However, Justice Thakur asked the government to expedite the process.

“The government is all resourceful. It can have additional hands for processing these papers. The IB Director can be told to put people on the job. Why should the IB take months together... We should have a system to know where the recommendation is,” he said. Earlier in the day, the joint conference of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Ministers passed a unanimous resolution for appointment of retired judges in the High Courts to revive the morning/evening courts for clearing cases relating to traffic challans and petty matters.

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