Excerpts from the letter written by President, Supreme Court Bar Association, to Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, on June 6, this year while rejecting Lodha’s idea that courts should work 365 days in a year, it put forward options to tackle backlog of cases in courts.
After you took over as the Chief Justice of India, Your Lordship has not only taken keen interest in functioning of the administration of justice but also have been acting upon bringing some useful reforms.
Primarily the view of most of the members of the Supreme Court Bar Association, whom I had the occasion of speaking to, about this issue, is that the members of the bar cannot possibly work for 365 days as no human being can or should work for 365 days.
The members of the Supreme Court Bar Association are well aware of the importance of finding the way out to solve the problem of increasing backlog and we suggest the following options rather than working for 365 days:
Filling up of all the posts of Judges in all courts on the day of vacancy: As on date the Hon’ble Supreme Court has 5 vacancies. For Hon’ble High Courts throughout the country, the approved strength of Judges is 875, as on 1st April, 2014 the working strength has been 623 and therefore the vacancies as on 1st April, 2014 are 252. Situation is no better in the District and Subordinate Judiciary which is also facing a huge shortage of Judges. Against the sanctioned strength of 17,715 Judges, more than 3,300 posts are vacant. Similar has been the position for the last few decades. This is the most important issue which needs to be tackled immediately in order to solve the problem of increasing arrears. The solution is exclusively in the hands of Hon’ble Judges, because all judicial appointments are in the hands of Hon’ble Judges.
We suggest that two or three months before, the vacancy or vacancies arise, collegiums exercise should be completed and the names may be sent to the government so that in case the government has any suggestions about any of the candidates, they also get time to return the suggestions for reconsideration. Thereafter, the necessary order etc. may be passed by Respected Rashtrapatijee.
The date on which the vacancy arises should be the date on whichthe vacancy is filled by making sure that the Hon’ble Judges filling the vacancy takes oath on the date the vacancy arises. As far as the appointments in Hon’ble High Courts are concerned, there has been a grievance that the Supreme Court collegiums at times take very long time running into couple of months, to consider the lists for appointment of Judges for High Courts and at times return the whole list for reconsideration after a long time. Some mechanism of coordination between the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Hon’ble High Courts should be evolved so that this deadlock can be avoided and the Judges take oath on the very day the vacancy arises in all courts.
As far as the appointments to the District Courts and Subordinate Courts are concerned they are under complete control of High Courts. Some directions may be issued to all High Courts to fill up these posts on the day, the vacancy arise.Appointing only competent and deserving Judges is also very important.
Punctuality of the Judges to work in Courtroom full time is very essential
Punctuality of working in the Court rooms on time and for the full time must be strictly followed by all the Judges throughout the Country. Rules and strict guidelines must be made to ensure that entire judicial time is fully and properly used by each and every Judge in all courts.
Certain uniform principles, in disposal of cases are required to be formulated by the Hon’ble Judges. It is true that a Judge has to discharge his judicial function according to his sense of justice but unless certain institutional policy decisions are taken and implemented, the arrears will go on mounting…. If general parameters are laid down and are broadly followed by Hon’ble Judges, people would stop filing certain cases.
Hon’ble Judges may spend some time and lay down the policies to be followed by the Judiciary. The meetings between Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India and the High Court Chief Justices should take place more often and there should be greater deliberation. In some of the sessions, members of the bar may also be invited.
Strikes by lawyers
The strike by lawyers is another reason for arrears. There can be no justification for going on strike by lawyers except in rarest of rare cases.
Adjournment by lawyers
Unnecessary adjournments by lawyers also lead to delay. The focus has to be on a litigant who has a right to have a lawyer of his choice and right to remain present in court on getting reasonable notice.
Governments as litigants
The Governments central as well as state and statutory authorities etc in most of their litigations always go right up to the Hon’ble Supreme Court. This is required to be controlled by laying down certain guidelines by governments and creating a machinery which will scrutinize…which matters should be filed and which matters should be appealed and till what stage.
If necessary, working hours of all courts may be increased by one hour on all working days for sometime as an experiment in order to see if disposal of matters increases and if it does then this may be done for year or so, till the arrears reduced.
The Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association would like to have a meeting with your Lordship to discuss the views of members of the bar on this very important issue and during such meeting we will submit supplementary suggestions after wider consultation, with the members of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
With Best Personal Regards on behalf of members of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
Pravin H Parekh President, Supreme Court Bar Association
More work, less play
The idea may have been rejected by the bar council of various states as well as the Supreme Court, but itwas a major initiative taken by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha in judicial reforms. After seeking a systemic change for ending the adjournment culture in courts, CJI Lodha had proposed that the Supreme Court, high courts and trial courts should work for 365 days a year. Lodha had said that judiciary was now an essential service provider, and thus should function all round the year. He pointed out that the step would help bring down the huge number of pending cases, offer quick relief to the litigants, and an opportunity to young lawyers to hone their skills. And most importantly, there will be no burden on lawyers to work for extra days or more hours, and they can go on leave whenever they choose, rather than on fixed dates and periods in a year, the CJI clarified. The apex court currently functions for 193 days, high courts work for 210 days while the trial courts do business for 245 days.