Shortage of judges has affected the justice delivery system in the Calcutta High Court,causing dissatisfaction among litigants and advocates. Several organisations,lawyers and officials with the HC said the justice mechanism has almost come to a collapse.
The situation has been aggravated by an inordinate delay in the recruitment of judges to fill up the vacancies. The recruitment,indicated High Court sources,might have been kept on hold because of the forthcoming Parliament elections,causing more trouble to litigants.
After the retirement of Justice Arunava Basu on February 10, the number of judges has been reduced to 36 in the HC against a sanctioned strength of 58. According to the administrative procedure,two judges of the Calcutta High Court are assigned to assume the Bench at Port Blair round the year alternatively. No Bench has been allotted to Justice Saumitra Sen for a long who had been in the midst of a controversy.
This means maximum 33 judges are available to hear the cases,a number,which could be reduced to 29 in September unless new judges are appointed. Justice Manik Mohan Sarkar retires in February end. Justice R N Banerjee and Justice Sadhan Gupta will go in April. And Justice Tapan Mukharjee will retire in September.
Consequently,the total strength will be reduced to 32 judges unless the Supreme Court clears new appointments for the HC.
Asish Roy,General Secretary,Bar Association of the Calcutta High Court,said the shortage is not new in the HC. But this time,the number is much lower than the sanctioned strength. It might cripple the judicial delivery system, said Roy.
In November 2008,the association wrote a letter to Chief Justice SS Nijjar,urging him to take initiative for the recruitment of judges. The HC has already recommended 13 names to the apex court for appointment of new judges. The approval is yet to come.
According to the procedure,a collegium of Supreme Court judges forwards a list of recommended names after scrutiny to the Union law ministry for final approval. Roy feels the recruitment of the new judges will be possible only after the Parliament election.
Chittaranjan Chakraborty,secretary of Democratic Lawyers Association,said: Over 30,000 thousand writ petitions are filed in the High Court in a year. It is not possible for the existing strength to hear the cases. Nearly,2.5 lakh writ petitions have been stockpiled.
In 2009,212 days have been allotted to the benches to hear the cases. Advocates said the court cannot possibly hear new writs and a even bigger number of pending cases with such a gross shortage of judges.