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No Rationale In Retiring High Court Judges At 62; Increase Number Of Working Days Of Judges To Combat Pendency: Parliamentary Standing Committee

Akshita Saxena
17 March 2021 5:33 AM GMT
No Rationale In Retiring High Court Judges At 62; Increase Number Of Working Days Of Judges To Combat Pendency: Parliamentary Standing Committee
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Given the mounting pendency of cases in Indian High Courts and the time taken by the authorities in appointment of Judges, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has expressed that there is a need to revisit the age of retirement of High Court judges. In the 107th Report on Demand for Grants for the Law Ministry for 2020-2021,...

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Given the mounting pendency of cases in Indian High Courts and the time taken by the authorities in appointment of Judges, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has expressed that there is a need to revisit the age of retirement of High Court judges.

In the 107th Report on Demand for Grants for the Law Ministry for 2020-2021, the Committee chaired by BJP MP Bhupendar Yadav, and composed by 27 other MPs as its members including Senior Advocates Vivek Tanka and P Wilson said,

"When Judges of Supreme Court can work upto 65 years of age, there is no rationale in retiring the High Court Judges at 62, and therefore, reiterates and recommends the [Law & Justice] Department to raise the age of retirement of High Courts judges from 62 to 65 years so that there is uniform age of retirement in both Supreme Court and High Courts."

[In June 2019, then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had requested the Prime Minister to take steps to raise the retirement of High Court judges as 65 years.]

It may be noted that the retirement age in different Tribunals has also been increased up to 70 years for Chairman and 65 years for Members.

In its report, the Committee expressed concern over the declining rate of judicial appointments in the country, invariably leading to increased number of pending cases.

As per the data supplied by the Committee:

  • Appointment of High Court judges has gone down from 126 in 2016 to only 66 in the year 2020, which is a decrease of 52 percent (approx.) over appointment made in the year 2016.
  • 4 High Courts including the those at Gauhati, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand were functioning without a Chief Justice as on December 31, 2020.
  • In High Courts, approximately 39% posts of Judges are vacant.
  • As against the approved strength of 1080 Judges in High Courts, only 661 are in position with 419 vacancies.
  • Highest numbers of judges' vacancies are in the High Court of Allahabad (64), Calcutta (40), Punjab and Haryana (37), Delhi (31), Patna (31) and Bombay (30).
  • As against the retirement of 69 High Court judges in the year 2020, only 66 Judges were appointed in various High Courts
  • As compared to February 1, 2020, the vacancy positions of Judges increased by 2.09% as on February 1, 2021— which is 5.63% in the Allahabad High Court, 11.11% in the Calcutta High Court, 7.54% in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, 7.55% in the Patna High Court and 8.24% in the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

The Committee notes several reasons for decline in the appointment rate such as time line for appointments are rarely adhered to by the Executive and the Judiciary. For instance, the Committee noted— High Courts are not initiating the proposal for appointment of Judges as per the Memorandum of Procedure; there is a delay upto 6 years in some High Courts in filling the vacancies.

[As against 419 vacancies in the High Courts, 208 recommendations were received by the Law and Justice Department and 211 recommendations are yet to be received from High Courts Collegiums.]

Overall, the average time taken for appointment of Judges in High Courts is between 5-7 months!

Another reason for the delay is high rate of rejection by the Collegiums. In this context the Committee noted that the Supreme Court Collegium rejects about 40-50% recommendations made by the High Court Collegiums.

In this backdrop the Report stated,

"The Committee notes that there are still a large number of vacancies of Judges in High Courts. The Committee had also taken note of the problem in its previous Reports. It is of the view that justice delivery system in the country is moving towards a stage, where both vacancy positions of judges and pendency of cases are increasing year after year and this state of affairs may erode the trust of public on the justice delivery system. The Committee strongly recommends that existing vacancy positions of judges need to be filled up immediately and the vacancies arising in future should be filled strictly as per the extant guidelines. The Committee also recommends the Department to request all the stakeholders, including High Court Collegiums, to expedite the process of initiation of recommendations so that appointments are not delayed."

With respect to Supreme Court, the Committee has informed that about 12% posts of Judges remain vacant. On top of it, as against retirement of 3 Judges in the year 2020, no appointment has been made.

Also Read: Over 400 Judicial Vacancies In Indian High Courts; Four In Supreme Court And 31 In Delhi HC: Law Ministry Tells Lok Sabha

Regional Supreme Court Benches

In the instant report, the Committee has reiterated the need for setting up of Supreme Court Benches in other parts of the country, with a view to providing justice to the poor, for whom it is impossible to visit the national capital.

It said,

"This Committee in its Second, Sixth, Fifteenth, Twentieth and Twenty Sixth Reports on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Law and Justice had recommended for setting up of Benches of the Supreme Court in Southern, Western and Eastern parts of the country on the premise that it is not possible for the people living in far-flung and remote areas to come to the National Capital for seeking justice for various reasons.

The Committee directs the Department to submit its considered view on the matter for its consideration."

Related Reports:

Pendency

As per the data supplied by the Committee, there are 4.34 crore cases pending in country, which includes 3.77 crore in Subordinate Courts, 57 lakh (approx.) in High Courts and 66,000 (approx.) in the Supreme Court as on 28th February, 2021.

Members of the Committee felt that the huge pendency of cases at all levels of judicial hierarchy can be dealt by increasing the number of working days of judges.

Socio-economic diversity on Bench

The Committee has expressed an opinion that composition of higher judiciary should reflect the socio-economic diversity and inclusiveness and accordingly, it has recommended that the Department should submit its considered view to the Committee on the matter such as social diversity statistics in the appointment in Higher Judiciary to provide effective representation.

Also Read: Govt Has Requested To Consider Members From SC/ ST/ OBC Communities, Minorities & Women For Appointment as HC Judges: Law Ministry

Note: The Department of Justice has been allocated Rs. 1266.42 crore for the coming Financial Year, which also includes provision of Rs. 200 crore under National Mission for Safety of Women for establishment of Fast Track Special Courts.

Click Here To Read/ Download Full Report


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