The Youth Bar Association of India has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court praying for directives to be issued for filling up the judicial vacancies in the High Courts as per their sanctioned strength and also to decide their representation seeking increase in the sanctioned strength.
The petition alleges that the fundamental rights of the citizens under Article 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution have been violated by denying them the right to speedy justice due to non-appointment.
The petitioners had recently moved a PIL in Uttarakhand High Court for increasing the retirement ages of High Court judges to 65 years in order to tackle pendency. The present petition filed by the President of the Association, advocate Sanpreet Singh Ajmani argues that,
"That though some appointments have been made in the various High Courts as well as in this Hon'ble Court but still about 39% of the sanctioned strength of the Judges of the High Courts are lying vacant as on 01.06.2019"
The petition states that considering the rapid increase in pendency of cases in the courts and also taking note of the fact that appointments are not being done as per the sanctioned strength, steps are needed to fill up such vacancies in High Courts and Subordinate Courts as per the sanctioned strength especially in view of the growing population of the country.
The petitioners further contend that delay in appointing judges might indirectly hamper with its independence since judicial independence is an absolute necessity for rule of law to prevail. They further contend that non-provision of adequate human resources required for its functioning, is nothing less than impeding dispensation of justice, since awaiting justice due to delay in appointments would amount to a grave impediment in its dispensation. Any such obstruction in justice would amount to deviation from the aspiration of Constitution makers of upholding judicial independence:
"Because 'judiciary' is the part of basic structure of the Constitution and also considered to be a pillar of democracy. Interference, by any means, affecting its smooth functioning amounts to interference in the independence of judiciary. Causing delay in appointing the judges might not be the expressive way of interfering with the independence of judiciary but it might be an indirect way of hampering its independence. For rule of law to prevail, judicial independence is of prime necessity."
Referring to section 151 A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as well as Article 62(1) and (2) of the Constitution, the petition contends that under such provisions, a specific time of appointment has been prescribed in case of Council of States and the House of People. The government has strictly adhered to such timeline in these cases whereas; no such meticulousness has been seen in case of judicial appointments despite being having prior information about the time of retirement of judges. Highlighting further that by-elections are held for filling up vacancies in legislative bodies, the petitioners have contended that judiciary is given a 'step motherly' treatment.
Emphasizing on the importance of the right to speedy trial, the petitioners have contended that:
"Because speedy trial is a part of reasonable, fair and just procedure guaranteed under Article 21. This constitutional right cannot be denied even on the plea of non-availability of adequate judges or financial resources. The state may have its financial constraints and expenditure but the law does not permit any government to deprive its citizens of the constitutional rights on plea of poverty."
Further contending that justice delayed is justice denied, the Association has pleaded:
"If the process of administration of justice is so time consuming, laborious, indolent and frustrating for those who seek justice that it dissuades or deters them from even considering resort to that process as an option, it would tantamount to denial of not only access to justice but justice itself."
The petitioners have emphasized that primacy has to be accorded to the views of the Chief Justice of India's views among the consultees mentioned in Articles 124(2), 217(1) and (c) in the sense that the opinion of the CJI would be binding on the President i.e. the executive due to which the government cannot sit idle over recommended names by the Supreme Court.
Further contending that delay in appointments also affects the careers of young lawyers, it stated:
"Because the young lawyers who have opted law and litigation as means to live with the dignity are on the verge of extinction due to prolong delay in disposal of the cases. The inordinate delay caused in conclusion of the cases hampering, on one hand, entire justice administration, on the other hand, affecting adversely the young lawyers striving for a securing career."
Denigrating that approach of the central government, the petitioners have contended,
"Because the central government is sitting idle over the subject matter neither paying any heed to the representations submitted by the Bar association nor giving any valid reasons in writing for withholding the clearance of names of the judges which are already cleared by the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India."
In view of their contentions, the Association have pleaded for issuing orders to immediately appoint judges as per sanctioned strength in the High Courts and Subordinate Courts and further to consider to representation dated 28.6.2019.
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