CJI recalls his days in Bihar, fighting backlog

Chief Justice of India Justice R.M. Lodha at the Supreme Court in New Delhi. File photo: R.V. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

Affording a rare insight into a judge's constant struggle against case backlog, Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha said his defining fight against pendency began when he took charge as the Chief Justice of Patna High Court in 2008.

The CJI delved into his eight-month tenure at the helm of Patna High Court during the farewell ceremony of Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, who retired on Monday.

“My distinguished brother Mr. Justice Prasad was my senior-most judge at the Patna High Court,” the CJI said.

CJI Lodha described how the voluminous backlog in that high court had made him seek Justice Prasad's help in a bid to bring some relief to the long-suffering litigants.

“There were three Bar Associations in the Patna High Court. I saw that the only way out was to increase working hours of the judges both at the high court and the subordinate judiciary. To my surprise, Justice Prasad swung into action and got the written consent of all the three Bar association presidents within the next 48 hours,” the CJI said.

He described how both the advocates and the judiciary had embraced his proposal and worked extra hours to clear the backlog.

In contrast, the CJI's recent proposal to have courts functioning on all 365 days a year was shot down by the Supreme Court Bar Association, which said they needed their rest. The CJI pointedly referred to this “rejection of his idea of 365 working days” in his address on Tuesday.

But in an anti-climactic end to his speech, the CJI said his reforms in the Patna High Court lasted as long as he was there.

“When I left, the judges reverted to their old timings... I guess, in India, institutions are individual-based,” the CJI said, adding that reforms last as long personal initiatives last.

In his own address, Justice Prasad responded that “great judges are those who overreach the pressures of their time”.

Justice Prasad, a school teacher who took up law practice to later become a judge of the Supreme Court, further advised the senior members of the Bar to take up more death sentence cases and help the judiciary decide between the choice of death and life for a condemned person.

Supreme Court Bar Association vice-president V. Shekhar, in his address popped a surprise when he said “the buzz in the Supreme Court corridors” is Justice Prasad is in the race for the Lokpal post.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:28:01 AM |

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