Even nil vacancies won’t cut backlog: Report

November 29, 2016 11:38 pm | Updated 11:40 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A study ordered by the Supreme Court shows that more judges in the High Courts, or even filling all the vacancies in them, does not necessarily end pendency.

“Not a single High Court has been able to eliminate backlog even when vacancies are non-existent or very low (say zero to 20 per cent),” said the Supreme Court-appointed study by the National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC).

The report, presented before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on Tuesday, questions Chief Justice Thakur’s recent observation that 70,000 judges are required to clear pendency.

The two-year study was commissioned by the court through an order dated August 20, 2014 while hearing Imtiyaz Ahmad versus State of Uttar Pradesh .

The court had directed the committee to study the recommendations made by the Law Commission of India on pendency and the relation between backlog and judges’ strength.

In 1987, the Law Commission recommended 44,000 judges to battle backlog . The country now has only about 18,000 judges.

‘Skewed logic’

But the committee said blindly increasing judicial strength with the sole aim to hike the rate of disposal of cases and avoid backlog was skewed logic. In fact, it said, avoiding backlog seems to be the “central and sole objective” of having more judges in the High Courts.

In fact, the report said, the current mechanism of calculating the required judges’ strength based on the average number of cases filed and the existing pendency has led to “grossly inadequate expansion of required High Court strength”. Hence, the concept of timely justice delivery system has taken a severe beating.

“The current method of calculating judges’ strength in High Courts is not scientific or robust, nor has it produced desired results of pendency resolution,” the report said.

“Effective” judicial strength has not expanded adequately to meet the rising inflow of cases. “In the last five years, the number of new cases filed in the High Courts of India has increased by 24 per cent and pendency by 32 per cent. Yet, effective judge strength has increased only by 8.5 percent,” the report said.

Effective strength

Again, the committee found that “only 49 judges have been added to the effective strength of High Courts in five years in the whole country to deal with 3.72 lakh additional new cases — this means an average of 7,591 cases per new judge — and 7.2 lakh additional pendency at the rate of 14,693 cases per new judge.”

The report calls for a long-term scientific method to assess the number of judges required in a court.

It said judges’ strength should be augmented after calculating the judicial hours required to hear and dispose of cases on the basis of their individual nature and complexity.

SC seeks details of funds allocation for judiciary

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to provide a detailed break-up of how Rs. 9,749 crore was allocated by the 14th Finance Commission to improve the justice delivery system in the States.

Expressing concern about the dismal lack of courtrooms and other infrastructure, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, asked the government to specify the manner in which the Centre proposes to monitor the utilisation of the amount.

The Centre agreed to file an affidavit within 10 days.

The Bench sought the details while reserving for final orders on a petition relating to arrears and vacancies in several courts.

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