Judiciary failed to fill 4,937 vacancies in lower courts: Centre

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad  

As Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur yet again accused the government of delay in filling the 442 judicial vacancies in the High Courts, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad parried the thrust on Constitution Day by throwing the spotlight on the judiciary’s “lapse” in appointing judges to the district and subordinate courts, which need 10 times more judges.

The government’s counter to the Supreme Court’s consistently sharp criticism is a pertinent question: why is the judiciary not filling the 4,937 judicial vacancies in the district and subordinate courts all over the country?

The total sanctioned strength of judicial officers in district and subordinate courts is 21,320 as on June 30, 2016. Of these, 16,383 have been filled, leaving 4,937 vacancies.

Pendency of cases

But even if the vacancies are all filled, the statistics of pendency in the subordinate courts continue to be staggering. The National Judicial Data Grid shows that as on November 27, the pendency in district courts is 2,30,02468 cases (Mr. Prasad, in his reply to the Lok Sabha, pegged the pendency numbers even higher at 2.7 crore). Ten per cent of this pile — 2,32,3781 — are cases pending over 10 years.

Annual reports released by the judiciary in the agenda papers of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of States and Union Territories and Chief Justices of High Courts on April 24, 2016 show a survey conducted by the Rajasthan High Court and the Tripura High Court. The data show that a trial court takes anything between 94 and 822 days to dispose of criminal matters. A sessions case takes an average of one year and two months.

As per monthly pending cases statistics released by the Supreme Court, 61,436 cases were pending in the apex court as on October 31. Over 38 lakh cases were pending in the High Courts as on December 31, 2015 — of this 7,45,029 had been pending for over a decade..

The joint conference found that 33.5 per cent of cases were lying stagnant for five-plus years in subordinate courts compared with 43 per cent in the High Courts. The situation is so serious that the conference resolved that these cases would be given “topmost” priority.

Judicial statistics show that 63 per cent of jail inmates awaiting justice, or even a court hearing, are undertrial prisoners. Further, 226 cases relating to undertrial prisoners have been pending for more than 10 years and 52 undertrial prisoners have been in jail for more than 10 years. Over 18,000 cases of undertrial prisoners have been pending for over three years.

Infrastructure a hitch

While reminding that the disposal of cases in courts is within the domain of judiciary, the Centre said it was the job of the High Courts and the State governments to fill he judicial posts. In their turn, the High Courts complain that they are not finding “suitable” candidates.

But, even if all vacancies are filled, lack of basic infrastructure, even courtrooms, for the new judicial officers would be a serious handicap.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 5:47:27 PM |

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