Thaw after chill: CJI clears govt plan to have 25% more HC judges

After taking charge as Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to the CJI seeking his approval.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: July 14, 2014 9:14 am
Lodha recently gave his nod to the Law Ministry’s proposal to increase the sanctioned strength of High Court judges by 25 per cent. (Source: PTI photo) Lodha recently gave his nod to the Law Ministry’s proposal to increase the sanctioned strength of High Court judges by 25 per cent. (Source: PTI photo)

Days after Chief Justice of India R M Lodha disapproved of the NDA government’s move to “unilaterally segregate” former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium from appointment as a Supreme Court judge, the judiciary and the government have come together to push a major reform to tackle the huge pendency.

Lodha recently gave his nod to the Law Ministry’s proposal to increase the sanctioned strength of High Court judges by 25 per cent. This would mean the appointment of about 200 more HC judges across the country, with the aim of reducing the backlog of about 40 lakh cases.

While the proposal was first moved over a year back, no serious efforts were made to implement it. After taking charge as Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to the CJI seeking his approval.

Responding as soon as the court reopened after the summer vacation, Lodha gave his nod and left it to the ministry to issue the necessary notifications. The CJI has also written to all the High Courts seeking prompt replies on their infrastructural requirements and vacancies.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the CJI said, “Yes, I have given my go-ahead to the government. The pendency is a major problem with the institution. The proposal looks at increasing the strength by 20-25 per cent. The reform will take place in a phased manner.” He said “it is now for them (government) to go ahead.”

While the Centre is yet to issue any notifications, Prasad said some High Courts — Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir — have provided the necessary inputs.

“We needed the judiciary’s approval as the government has to go through a consultative process with the CJI and Chief Justices of the High Courts. Our government is committed to increasing the strength of judges, not only in High Courts but also in subordinate judiciary,” said Prasad.

Raising the issue during a hearing last week, CJI Lodha said. “We are not justifying the delay (in deciding cases) but we can’t close our eyes to the reality that with a population of more than 1.27 billion, there are 19,006 judges… system is not being allowed to grow and work.”

At a joint conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts in April last year, then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had said that then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed, in principle, to increase the sanctioned strength of HC judges by 25 per cent.

Subsequently, Lodha’s predecessor, Justice P Sathasivam, had also written to Singh, emphasising the need to increase the strength of judges, “lest there should be parallel courts throughout the country”. Former Law Minister Kapil Sibal had then asked the Chief Justices of High Courts to send recommendations for filling the vacancies.

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  1. M
    Mangal
    Jul 15, 2014 at 5:46 am
    Bringing back the JURY system is only solution to problem otherwise judges will remain corrupt and will keep on delaying the cases indefinitely..
    Reply
  2. R
    Ram
    Jul 14, 2014 at 7:19 am
    Open additional bench(es) of High Court in all States and provide good infrastructure to handle the huge load of pending cases. Just by appointing new judges within the same high court building (or with the same infrastructure) is not going to show any visible improvement.
    Reply
  3. S
    sellva
    Jul 14, 2014 at 5:44 am
    How to reduce the back log of cases than increasing the strength. Fill the vacancies fast or select judges in advance - to fill it immediately .please stop adjournment of cases indefinitely. Case to have definite period.Then only cases will be closed
    Reply
  4. C
    Citizen
    Jul 13, 2014 at 11:58 pm
    Good a step in the right direction but at the same time we have to increase the investigation, escort, video conferencing evidence accepting etc should also be improved/increased for speedy trails of all the pending cases. If the HCs clear then SC would have more cases pending. It is also prudent on the part of the rulers to think to minimize the adjournments/appeals by lawyers in consultation with bar council HC/SC judges in some cases where the imprisonment, fine are at some bench mark level with out jeopardizing the fairness of the justice to the people. Jaihind
    Reply
  5. C
    Citizen
    Jul 14, 2014 at 1:08 am
    Rulers may also think of using the present infra by keeping the courts open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and also on Saays/Sundays in cases where they think security/convenience to the litigants is not a major issue. Jaihind
    Reply
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