Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has written three letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an increase in the strength of judges in the Supreme Court and raising the retirement age of high court judges to 65 years.
“I request you to kindly consider, on top priority, to augment the judge-strength in the SC appropriately so that it can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain the ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public,” Gogoi wrote.
To clear the huge backlog of cases, the CJI further urged the prime minister to make tenure appointments of retired apex court and HC judges under Articles 128 and 224A of the Constitution respectively.
In the letter, Gogoi mentioned that 58,669 cases were pending in the top court and the number was only increasing. Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed, the CJI said.
He further pointed out that though the size of the feeder cadre of chief justice and judges of the high courts had increased in the past, the strength did not rise proportionally in the top court.
Last month, the government cleared names of four judges for their elevation to the Supreme Court. Once the appointments formally come through, the top court will have its full sanctioned strength of 31 judges. As of now, the apex court is functioning with 27 judges.
In his second letter, the CJI urged Modi to consider introducing a constitutional amendment to increase the retirement age of high court judges from 62 to 65 years. He listed a shortage of judges in high courts as one of the primary reasons for the “ever-growing” pendency.
“One of the prime reasons why we are not able to contain the ever-growing pendency is a shortage of HC judges. At present, 399 posts, or 37 per cent of sanctioned judge-strength, are vacant. The existing vacancies need to be filled immediately. However, despite best efforts put in by all stakeholders, it has not been possible to appoint judges to bring the working judge-strength anywhere close to the sanctioned judge-strength,” Gogoi wrote.
Gogoi further said, “A judge takes time to evolve and by the time he is in a position to put innovative thoughts based on rich experience to the practice, he finds himself nearing retirement. This can be avoided if the age of retirement is raised to an appropriate level so that his vast experience, deeper insight and expertise can be utilised for a longer period.”
“In my view also, if retired HC judges are considered for appointment in tribunals beyond the age of 62 years, they may continue in HCs up to 65 years. The proposal suggested will ensure continued availability of more experiences judges for a longer tenure,” he wrote.