Calcutta High Court, the oldest one in the country, is functioning with less than half its sanctioned strength of judges. The number of judges will dip to 30 next week following the retirement of Acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre against its sanctioned strength of 72. It will go down further to 25 in December when more judges reach superannuation. “If new appointments of judges are not made immediately, the justice delivery system (in the HC) is likely to crash … In the absence of requisite number of judges, litigants, lawyers and the judges are suffering owing to the abysmal ratio of judges against pending cases,” Calcutta High Court Bar Association president Uttam Majumdar told PTI.
“We have sought appointments from President Ram Nath Kovind, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to present our case for new judges,” he said.
The lawyers had on September 13 submitted a memorandum to West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi demanding his intervention and immediate steps for filling up vacant posts of judges as per the sanctioned strength at the Calcutta High Court.
“While the sanctioned strength of judges at the Calcutta High Court is 72, there are at present only 31 judges. Nearly three lakh cases are pending before the high court at present,” Majumdar said.
The number of judges will touch 30 with the retirement of Justice Mhatre on September 18 and dwindle further to 29 on Septmeber 24 when Justice Rajiv Sharma retires.
This number will further reduce to 25 in December owing to retirement of four more judges, he said.
“In the last three years, no judges were appointed in the High Court, Calcutta, except one,” the memorandum said.
A section of lawyers had recently written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking his intervention to alleviate the “plight of the justice system in Calcutta High Court” and also sat on a dharna in front of the main building demanding immediate appointment of judges.
“The situation is alarming and requires immediate`response to restore semblance of sense of justice and peace,” the letter signed by around 600 lawyers said.
Acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre had on August 4 expressed anguish at the non appointment of judges saying the court was constrained for time as it was functioning at less than half of its sanctioned strength.
Flaying the Centre for delaying the appointment of judges, another division bench of the high court had on July 12 warned of “appropriate action” if urgent steps were not taken.
“Immediate action is called for to appoint maximum number of judges to prevent the justice delivery system from collapsing, which seems to be imminent,” a division bench of justices Dipankar Dutta and D P Dey said.
“If no judge is appointed by February 11, the vacancy would rise to nearly 66 per cent,” the bench had observed.