The situation on the number of pending cases in the courts as well as the vacancies for the posts of judges of Supreme and High Courts is getting grimmer by the hour.
Data released by the Ministry of Law as well as the Supreme Court monitored agency on Thursday shows an increase in both the scenarios. The total pending cases in various courts is 2.28 crore as on September 1, up from 2.24 crore as on August 12. The vacancies for the posts of top judiciary stands at 485, up from 478 as on August 1, 2016, to be filled up in various High Courts. The Supreme Court itself has three vacancies.
The problem intensified in October 2015 when the apex court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment as “unconstitutional’’.
The Supreme Court had declared the Act as null and void, which was to do away with the collegiums and replace it with a Commission envisaging a role for the political class as well the civil society, in the appointment of judges to the highest courts. The apex court had knocked down the Act declaring that the judiciary cannot risk being caught in a “web of indebtedness” towards the government.
To deal with the issue of greater transparency in the functioning of the collegiums the Supreme Court and the government have been engaged in working on the contours of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and the judiciary.
Over three weeks ago the apex court Bench pulled up the Centre on Friday for sitting on the Collegium’s recommendations on appointment and transfer of judges while hearing a PIL plea filed by war veteran Lt. Col (retd.) Anil Kabotra.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, had pointed out to the government that “most High Courts are working with only 40 per cent of their sanctioned judicial strength and people are languishing in jails for 13 years without a hearing.” “Will you wait till they complete a life sentence?” Chief Justice Thakur asked the government.
Chief Justice Thakur said the government might be working on the draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges, but the task did not give them the excuse to paralyse the judiciary by simply sitting on appointments and transfers.
“If you have a problem with a name suggested by us, send the file back to us. We will look into it... This is some kind of a logjam and this whole situation is getting very difficult,” he said.
Once again in August, speaking at a function after the inauguration of hostel block of State Judicial Academy and foundation stone ceremony of the National Law University at Ghandal near Shimla, the CJI had said the matter of appointments of judges and vacancies have become a national challenge.
“Extent of judicial interference in governmental issues depends on how effectively and efficiently the government does its job. Which court would want to intervene if the government works efficiently and sincerely?” the CJI had told a television interview a few months ago.