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Retired judges to wield the gavel again

Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur made an impassioned plea at the Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices in April in New Delhi to have more judges.

Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur made an impassioned plea at the Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices in April in New Delhi to have more judges.  

It took the government six months to agree to a resolution passed by the judiciary to re-employ them to cut pendency.

After a gap of six months, the Union government has agreed to a resolution passed by the judiciary in the Chief Justices and Chief Ministers Annual Conference in 2016 to use the services of retired High Court judges with proven integrity and track record to tackle pendency of cases.

The resolution, forwarded by the Delay and Arrears Committees of the judiciary, had been hanging fire since April.

The provision to use the services of retired judges is open to the Chief Justices of High Courts under Article 224A of the Constitution with the previous consent of the President as an extraordinary measure to tide over case pile-ups.

As per the minutes of the April resolution, “keeping in view the large pendency of civil and criminal cases, especially criminal appeals, where convicts are in jail and having due regard to the recommendation made by the 17th Law Commission of India in 2003, the Chief Justices will actively have regard to the provision of Article 224A of the Constitution as a source for enhancing the strength of judges to deal with the backlog of cases for a period of two years or the age of sixty five years, whichever is later until a five plus zero pendency is achieved.”

‘Five plus zero’ initiative

‘Five plus zero’ is an initiative by which cases pending over five years are taken up on priority basis and their numbers are brought down to zero.

The conference minutes considered the report of the committees about delay in case disposal in the High Courts with great concern. “The reports submitted by the Delay and Arrears Committees of various High Courts have indicated a need to prioritise areas of immediate concern in the disposal of pending cases.”

These concerns highlighted in the conference includes: The pendency of cases in the High Court has been stagnant for over three years; 43 per cent of the pendency is of cases of over five years; concentration of ‘five years plus’ cases in a few High Courts; and stagnant pendency figures of five years plus cases (33.5 per cent in 2015) in district courts.

Accordingly, it was resolved that all High Courts shall assign top-most priority for disposal of cases which are pending for more than five years.

In High Courts, where arrears of cases pending for more than five years are concentrated shall facilitate their disposal in a “mission mode.”

The High Courts shall progressively thereafter set a target of disposing of cases pending for more than four years. The Conference had resolved that while prioritising the disposal of cases pending in the district courts for more than five years, additional incentives for the judges of the district judiciary be considered.

MoP on appointments

The agreement on the minutes comes at a time when the Executive and the Judiciary are trying to find a common ground on the memorandum of procedure for judicial appointments in High Courts and ths Supreme Court.

As on June 30 while the total sanctioned strength was 21,303, the subordinate courts were functioning with 16,192 judicial officers — a shortage of 5,111.

The 24 High Courts face a shortage of nearly 450 judges. Nearly three crore cases are pending in courts across India.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:06:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Retired-judges-to-wield-the-gavel-again/article16437687.ece

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