Tribunal Vacancies Are Kept Open For A Long Time; There's A Constant Tussle For Control On Judges Appointments: CJI DY Chandrachud

Update: 2023-12-08 15:35 GMT
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Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud highlighted the problem of vacancies in tribunals, while addressing a public event on Friday.“We ask ourselves whether we should have constituted so many tribunals. Because you don't get judges, when you do, the vacancies are kept open for a long time. There is a constant tussle over who will control the appointment of judges”, the CJI said addressing...

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Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud highlighted the problem of vacancies in tribunals, while addressing a public event on Friday.

“We ask ourselves whether we should have constituted so many tribunals. Because you don't get judges, when you do, the vacancies are kept open for a long time. There is a constant tussle over who will control the appointment of judges”, the CJI said addressing the inauguration ceremony of the new office premises of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Mumbai..

Chief Justice Chandrachud praised the growth of CAT since its inception, emphasizing its contribution in unclogging the courts and expediting justice delivery in service matters. The CJI termed this a unique achievement, stating that tribunals are plagued with problems, especially the tussle for control over judicial appointments. 

Chief Justice Chandrachud lauded the work of both judicial and administrative members of CAT. He highlighted the unique strengths brought by the combination of legal expertise from judicial members and an understanding of grassroots realities from administrative members.

The Chief Justice emphasized the vital role of CAT in providing a shorter route for certain categories of litigants, reducing the burden of lengthy legal battles, especially for vulnerable individuals.

CJI highlights infrastructural problems

He referred to a conference of Chief Justices of High Courts on the Constitution Day, where a report titled 'State of the Judiciary' highlighted infrastructural gaps in the judiciary.

The report found that for the sanctioned strength of 25081 judges in the district judiciary, there is a shortage of 4250 courtrooms and 6021 residential units. 42.9 percent of total courtrooms have been under construction for more than 3 year. In contrast, this new CAT building represents continued efforts towards more inclusive accessible and just institutions”, the CJI said.

The CJI shared that when he along with Justice Abhay Oak visited Kolhapur a few years ago, they found that the district court did not have toilets of women judges. He pointed out that the infrastructure must be architecturally inclusive to address the challenges and changing composition of the legal profession. “The State Of The Judiciary report found that out of 16 states which recently conducted the civil judge junior division recruitment, 14 had more than 50 percent selection of women. In some states even in absence of horizontal reservation for women, the number of women recruited has gone up by 70 to 80 percent”, he highlighted.

Chief Justice Chandrachud said that as per a Supreme Court Centre for Policy Report published last month, only 13.1 percent of district courts had childcare rooms. Only 50 percent had ramps. 40 percent had dedicated spaces for persons with disabilities and merely 30 percent had infrastructural support for persons with disabilities in the form of tile paving.

He also shared that the report of the Accessibility Committee of SC highlighted issues of persons of disability, women, particularly during pregnancy as well as senior citizens in accessing courts physically or digitally. The committee recommended accessible route maps, pathways, accessibility of documents, regular updates on fresh matters, accessibility technology in websites etc.

The Chief Justice highlighted infrastructural deficiencies in district courts, emphasizing the need for inclusive features like ramps, elevators, and signage in different languages.

Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized the need for accessible infrastructure to bridge social, physical, and systemic imbalances, particularly for persons with disabilities, women, and senior citizens. He urged continuous improvements in physical access.

Chief Justice Chandrachud acknowledged the well-known space constraints in Mumbai and shared a humorous anecdote about the limited space in his chamber when he used to practice as a lawyer. “I had a huge office of 120 sq. ft. when I started my chamber. Half a dozen juniors, me, packed in. They would often come to my chamber. I later realised they came to the chamber more for the air conditioning than the exchange of ideas”, he shared.

The CJI highlighted the role of infrastructure in influencing public perception and trust in the judiciary, encouraging efforts to enhance the quality of institutional infrastructure.

Judicial delays impact different segments of legal profession differently

Underscoring the importance of inclusivity in legal processes, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud discussed the impact of delays on different segments of the legal profession, emphasizing the challenges faced by women and first-generation lawyers.

Everything being equal, in a society that associates intellect and calibre with gender, the impact of delay will be greater on the woman lawyer. She's not only fighting her immediate opponent in the court, but also combatting years of gendered perceptions about her innate ability to be lawyer, a profession often incorrectly linked with unemotional rationality, typically not attributed to her gender. Similarly, the impact of professional losses due to delay is more pronounced on first generation lawyer than those who have safety cushion of generational and financial capital. The facially neutral problem of delay could have disparate impact of different people”, the CJI explained.

Technology meant to give a choice to litigant; not to supplant physical access

In his address, CJI highlighted the importance of physical, technological and personnel infrastructure in the judiciary and emphasised the importance of technology as a supplement, not a replacement, for physical access to courts.

It is no answer to a wheelchaired litigant a senior citizen or a lactating mother for our courts to tell them that they are better experienced online. The technology must supplement and not sabotage physical access. The litigant alone must have the choice of how they want to access the courts. Our function as courts and tribunals is to give them an effective choice between a fully functional and accessible court complex and an equally functional technology enabled court”, he said.

He concluded by sharing a quote from Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, who redesigned the Museum of Modern Art in New York, "Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope that they will enjoy not so much the teacup but the tea as well."

The CJI said that the court's personnel infrastructure along with lawyers and judges also comprises registry, support staff which, at all levels, form the back bone of the court system. Sharing that the SC has launched a calendar for training the entire staff, the CJI said that the courts, Tribunals and every single person working towards improving them function as vessels of justice. “We are not just the containers, but also what lies inside the container for facilitating and fostering social cohesion by addressing grievances and disputes across diverse segments of our society”, he said.

CAT Chairman Justice Ranjit More in his welcome address announced that the Mumbai bench would commence operations in the new two building from the upcoming Monday.

Highlighting the success of CAT in case disposals, Justice More stated that out of over 6 lakh cases, only 59000 cases were carried to the High Court, constituting less than 10 percent. He noted that 70% of the judgments were confirmed by the High Court, underscoring CAT's efficacy in addressing litigants' concerns. Justice More also shared updates on the infrastructural progress of CAT benches across the country and said that within 2-3 years, all benches will have their own building.

The inauguration ceremony also witnessed attendance of Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya, Advocate General of Maharashtra Birendra Saraf, and Additional Solicitor General Devang Vyas.

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