After nearly half a century, the Supreme Court will finally cut short its summer vacation. Amending rules that have stood since 1966, the apex court has decided to curtail its summer vacation from a maximum ten weeks to seven weeks.
The declaration of a shorter summer vacation for the top court has come by way of a gazette notification on the new regulations, to be called the Supreme Court Rules, 2013. The notification replaces the SC Rules, 1966.
As decided by Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, the fresh rules, which have obtained the assent of the President, will come into effect from August 19 this year.
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In an apparent expression of the CJI’s will to cut down on the long holidays and have more working days for the court, Order II, Rule 4, Sub-rule 2 of the notification says: “The period of the summer vacation shall not exceed seven weeks.” This period was fixed as not exceeding 10 weeks under the 1966 Rules.
The Supreme Court goes on summer vacation for not less than 45 days on average every year. This year, the vacation lasted 49 days. With other holidays, the SC functions for less than nine months every year.
Even as the maximum number of court holidays under the new rules remains constant at 103 days in a year, a shorter summer vacation will mean fewer yearly holidays.
Since taking over as CJI, Justice Lodha has been trying to push for more working days in courts across the country. Justice Lodha had written to Chief Justices of all High Courts for their views on a 365-day work calendar, amid growing criticism from various quarters on the staggering pendency of cases. The CJI had pointed out that the SC currently works for 193 days, High Courts for 210 days and trial courts for 245 days a year.
He had suggested that instead of the courts closing for vacations, judges should be allowed to take leave according to their convenience.
“In other words, the courts should function all year round, giving individual judges the choice of holidays and vacations. For working of this idea, I had suggested that by the end of September, each judge should indicate holidays and vacations he or she wants to avail of in the succeeding year. The registry will then finalise the sittings having regard to the options given by the respective judges,” the CJI’s letter had said.
The Law Commission in its report in 2009 had recommended that vacations in the higher judiciary should be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days.
However, the CJI’s proposal did not find favour with lawyers’ bodies including the Bar Council of India and the SC Bar Association, which said that the proposition was not feasible.