Non-Filling Up Of Judicial Vacancies Major Reason For Pendency: CJI NV Ramana

by Jul 17, 2022Governance0 comments

While responding to the concerns expressed by the Union Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju pertaining to the huge case backlogs in the country, the incumbent Chief Justice of India (CJI) – NV Ramana reiterated point blank that the non-filling up of judicial vacancies was the major reason for the pendency of cases in the country. Why in several states we see that exams are not conducted for Judges post for about five to six years also as we saw in UP from 2007 to 2012? Why seats are not filled up in time? Why MPs and MLAs seat are never left vacant? Why seats for MPs and MLAs keep increasing but not for Judges? This in itself is enough to depict that with how much contempt the ruling dispensation both in Centre and in the State treats the judiciary!

It must be mentioned in this context that the Law Minister Rijiju and the CJI Ramana were attending the All India Legal Services Authorities Meet at Jaipur. In his address, the Union Law Minister Rijiju said that it was a matter of concern that over 5 crore cases are pending in courts across the country in the 75th year of independence. Without mincing any words, the Law Minister called for a coordinated efforts by both the judiciary and the executive in reducing pendency. He said quite candidly that, “The pendency of cases in our country is touching 5 crores. What’ll be the situation after 25 years? People ask me about as the Law Minister. Yesterday I talked to officials in my department to bring the number down by 2 crores in 2 years.” How can this be best ensured? It can be best ensured by filling up of judicial vacancies at the earliest and even increasing the number of vacancies in big states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan among others!

It must be also noted that the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju also said that, “In our amritkaal, we should have a justice system that is speedy and accessible.” How can this be possible? It is a no-brainer that it is possible by ensuring that Judges vacancies are filled up soon, the post of Judges are further increased and the judicial infrastructure is made even more better and more High Court Benches are created in big states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan where the pending cases are much higher and yet Bench is either just one as in UP and Rajasthan and in states like Bihar and Orissa, there is none! When Centre can spend more than 16,500 crores on roads and expressways in one go as we saw recently in Bundelkhand then why can’t High Court Benches be created in needy regions like Bundelkhand, West UP, Purvanchal among others where there is not even a single High Court Bench as both High Court and a single Bench are in Eastern UP at Allahabad and Lucknow with a distance of just about 200 km between them whereas the people of more than 20 districts of West UP have to travel about 700 to 750 km on an average all the way to Allahabad which means whole night and half day which is nothing but plain stupidity of the highest order!

It must be noted that the First Law Commission in its fourth report made in 1956 that is more than 66 years ago strongly recommended that more High Court Benches should not be created but the 18th Law Commission in its 230th report made in 2009 has strongly recommended creation of more High Court Benches all over India. Which report should the Government adhere – one made in 1956 or one made in 2009?

The 18th Law Commission in its 230th report had itself noted that, “In almost every High Court, there is huge pendency of cases and the present strength of the judges can hardly be said to be sufficient to cope with the alarming situation. The institution of cases is much more than the disposal and it adds to arrears of cases. The litigating citizens have a fundamental right of life i.e. a tension-free life through speedy justice-delivery system. Now it has become essential that the present strength of the judges should be increased manifold according to the pendency, present and probable. It is also necessary that the work of the High Courts is decentralized, that is, more Benches are established in all States. If there is manifold increase in the strength of the judges and the staff, all cannot be housed in one campus. Therefore, the establishment of new Benches is necessary. It is also in the interest of the litigants. The Benches should be so established that a litigant is not required to travel long. It is true that the new establishments will require money, but it is necessary as a development measure, particularly, when efforts are being made for all-round development of the country. Therefore, the money should not be a problem. We have to watch and protect the interest of the litigants. We must always keep in mind that the existence of judges and advocates is because of the litigants and they are there to serve their cause only. Sometimes, some advocates object to creation of new Benches and selection of new sites for construction of new buildings. But they raise objections in their personal, limited interest. Creation of new Benches is certainly beneficial for the litigants and the lawyers and a beginning has to be made somewhere. A speedy trial is not only required to give quick justice but it is also an integral part of the fundamental right of life, personal liberty, as envisaged in article 21 of the Constitution. Article 39A of the Constitution provides for equal justice and free legal aid. The said article obligates the State to promote justice on a basis of equal opportunity and, in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities!”

It is more than 13 years that the Law Commission made this historic recommendation yet only one State – Karnataka has gained from it and the bigger States like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha etc have not gained anything! This despite the fact that we see maximum lawlessness in states like Bihar where maximum trains were burnt in the recent protests against the Agniveer scheme for defence soldiers. Still it has not even a single High Court Bench even though it has more than 11 crore population also and as against this, Karnataka which has just 6 crore population has three High Court Benches! This anomaly must be set right by creating more benches in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and other big states! It brooks no more delay now! I hope Centre will now act and accord due weightage to the landmark recommendations that were made by 230th report!

Coming back to the key issue, the CJI NV Ramana after completing his address said that it is his responsibility to respond to the comments of Law Minister regarding pendency. He said very candidly that, “It is my responsibility to react to one or two things which the Law Minister has mentioned. I am glad that he has taken up the issue of pendency. We Judges also, when we go outside the country, we also face the same question: how many years will a case take place? You all know the reasons for pendency. I need not elaborate on it. I already indicated this in the last Chief Justices-Chief Ministers conference. You all know the major important reason is the non-filling up of the judicial vacancies and not improving the judicial infrastructure.” The other major reason is that the government itself is the biggest litigator. Here the Government must take steps to reduce the cases that have no relevance and only add further to the strength of the pending cases.

Needless to say, the CJI NV Ramana then cited the example of the National Legal Services Authority settling around 2 crore pre-litigating cases and 1 crore pending cases last year. While lauding the relentless efforts of the NALSA Executive Chairman – Justice UU Lalit, the CJI NV Ramana said that Judges and officers worked extra-hours to achieve this feat. Justice UU Lalit himself recently pointed out that when children can go to school at 6 am in morning then why can’t Judges be in the court by 9.30 am? Absolutely right!

What’s more, CJI NV Ramana then pointed out that, “Judiciary is always ahead in trying to resolve all these issues. Only I request is that, the Government has to take up the filling up of vacancies, as well as providing infrastructure. And NALSA is the best model. It is a success story. So on the same lines, we suggested a Judicial Infrastructure Authority in the last Chief Justices’ Conference. Unfortunately, it was not taken up. However, I hope and trust that the issue will be revisited.”

In hindsight, the CJI NV Ramana has voiced the same concern on earlier occasions too. While speaking at the Joint Conference of the Chief Ministers of the States and Chief Justices of the High Courts at New Delhi on April 30, the CJI Ramana had said that the non-performance of the various wings of the executive and the ambiguities in the legislations were contributing a lot to the case load of the judiciary. It may be recalled that he had also said with PM Narendra Modi himself on the stage that if the authorities are performing their functions in accordance with law, people would not approach the Courts. CJI Ramana had also pointed out that the pendency is blamed on the judiciary but the issue of unfilled vacancies and increasing sanctioned strength of Judges need discussion. Why should the Government be so miser on spending on judiciary which is the most active organ of the country?

Furthermore, it also ought to be recalled that the CJI NV Ramana had pointed out that, “As per sanctioned strength, we have just around 20 Judges per 10 lakh population which is alarming low.” He also hastened to add that, “I would like to urge the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to extend wholehearted co-operation to the Chief Justices, in their endeavor to strengthen the district judiciary…Unless the foundation is strong, the structure cannot be sustained. Please be generous in creating more posts and filling the same, so that our judge-to-population ratio is comparable to advanced democracies.”

In a nutshell, it is high time and Centre and all the State Governments must ensure at the earliest that all the judicial vacancies are filled up well in time as the CJI NV Ramana and earlier also many former CJI like TS Thakur who was the 43rd CJI had pointed out with tears in his eyes which one can never ever forget who had seen him crying! Still why Centre and the different State Governments rarely bother to act on this most-important key issue? Just introspecting won’t help and time is ripe now for Centre and all State Governments to act promptly on this!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x