[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he other day, for the fourth time this year, the Chief Justice of India (CJI), slammed the Central Government for delaying the appointment of judges. This time around, however, Justice Tirath Singh Thakur was at his most outrageous by questioning the Centre if it wants the entire judicial system to be “locked out”. So angry was he that he said he “will have the Secretary, PMO, and Secretary, Justice Department, summoned here (in court) and they will now have to explain the delay.”
…while the UPA government added 20 new posts of high court judges, the NDA government has added 173 new posts in 2015 and 2016.
His cause of anger has been that the shortage of judges was the root cause of the humongous pendency of court cases in our country.
Yes, yes, the pendency is indeed humongous. As stated in the Lok Sabha by the country’s Law Minister, 58,906 cases were pending in the Supreme Court of India as on December 1, 2015. The number of cases pending in the High Courts on that date was 41.53 lakhs while 2.64 crore cases were pending in District and Subordinate Courts as on Dec 31, 2014.
However, was that Himalayan pendency because of the Modi government’s inaction on the appointment of judges during its ongoing reign in office? No, not according to a reputed pink newspaper. In its edition of October 29, 2016 “The Economic Times”, citing government sources, said that while the UPA government added 20 new posts of high court judges, the NDA government has added 173 new posts in 2015 and 2016. Further, the data analysis for the last 10 years suggested that the “number of vacancies varies from 265 to 280” and the “working strength of judges in high courts has remained almost same, around 600.” The current working strength in High Courts is 620.
Clearly, the Modi government did not warrant the insulting words of the CJI. Thank God he did not speak of summoning the Prime Minister Modi himself to personally submit some such thing as an affidavit signed by him in the Milord’s presence.
Thus, the basic question is whether an alleged shortage of the number of judges is the sole reason for cases remaining pending. Consider some glaring pending cases.
P Chidambaram election result in 2009
It was on June 7, 2012 that our media told us that the then UPA regime’s Home Minister Chidambaram was to face trial over his 2009 Lok Sabha win. We were told that Justice K Venkatraman of the Madurai Bench of the High Court would hear 27 of the 29 charges against Chidambaram filed by AIADMK’s Raja Kannappan, who lost to him from Sivaganga constituency by just 3,354 votes. Note that Kannappan’s plea was filed soon after his defeat declared in the 2009 polls, but the High Court ordered a trial on it some three years later; more importantly, note that after the High Court judge’s decision to hold a trial on that petition, no decision on it has emerged even four years and more till Diwali 2016, even as the cunning Congress leader talks tough in the Rajya Sabha. It remains a pending case. Why, Your Honour Mr. Tirath Singh Thakur? Is it because of the NDA-created shortage of Judges in the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court or in the entire Madras High Court?
Lalu Prasad Yadav
It was on December 13, 2013, that the media informed us that the Supreme Court had granted bail to RJD boss, Lalu Prasad Yadav, in connection with the fodder scam case in which he had been sentenced to five years in jail. It was bail on grounds of parity because a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam had noted that several other similarly placed convicts have already been granted bail in the case. Why, Your Honour Mr. Tirath Singh Thakur? Is it because of NDA-created shortage of Supreme Court Judges?
After a trial that went on for 18 years and was transferred from Chennai to Bangalore, a Special Court pronounced an Order on 27th September 2014, convicting J.Jayalalithaa and four of her aides in the disproportionate assets case of Rs. 66.65 crores ($10 million). Just three weeks later, on October 17, 2014, we learnt that the Supreme Court granted bail to J.Jayalalithaa and three aides of hers who had been imprisoned along with her were also given bail. Two full years thereafter, “Amma” has won an election and has been ruling Tamil Nadu like an Empress. Why, Your Honour Mr. Tirath Singh Thakur? Is it because of NDA-created shortage of Judges in the Supreme Court?
In a shocking irony to the Lalu and Amma cases, the Supreme Court took just a few hours to revoke the bail given by the Patna High Court (Bihar) to the notorious Mohammed Shahbuddin as well as to Rocky Yadav, son of an RJD party leader who had been convicted of murder in an open-and-shut case. Both men were almost immediately sent to jail. These bail revocations happened in September/October 2016. Why did they happen, Your Honour Mr. Tirath Singh Thakur? Were there enough Supreme Court judges in place to perform those two miracles?
Now take one of those 2.64 crore cases pending in District and Subordinate Courts on 31.12.2014 as mentioned earlier. These cases are all under the jurisdiction of the sessions and district level judges. And the judges of subordinate courts are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the chief justice of the High Court of the concerned State. The appointment of district judges is notified by the State Government.
The question arises: Why, instead of all his harangue against the Modi Government, the Chief Justice of India doesn’t ask all the State High Courts about the avalanche of unfinished case in the courts that exist in their jurisdiction? Why this blind eye, Your Honour Mr. Tirath Singh Thakur?
And just in case he wants to know how bad a state these subordinate courts are in, he must read the interview given by the State Bank of India Charmin to senior journalist Shekhar Gupta posted on rediff.com on March 14, 2016 about her Banks’ consortium’s loans to Vijay Mallya/Kingfisher.
If he does read it as requested. Milord Thakur will come to know that
The SBI went to the Debt Recovery Tribunal, (DRT), Bengaluru, in 2013 to recover its loans and there had been 81 hearings till the date of the rediff.com interview
Vijay Mallya has filed several cases against the SBI in the DRT and the SBI had filed counterclaims. There are 22 cases SBI are fighting here, and overall there have been 508 hearings. The number of adjournments was more than 180 till the date of the interview.
If that above case of the SBI appears to be fictional and a perverse type of frivolous litigation, look at a genuine one.
Case against Ram and Laxman for expelling Sita
Early this year, a case was filed in the court of chief judicial magistrate in Sitamarhi Patna, Bihar, against Ram and Laxman for exiling Sita!! It was a case under Section 367/34 and other sections of the IPC, seeking direction of the court for justice to Sita in this regard. It was filed by… a lawyer, Thakur Chandan Kumar Singh! And, believe it or not, the court admitted the case, fixing the hearing for February 1, 2016!
Imagine the above case being heard some 14 months after the Chief Justice of India, H.L. Dattu, had, in an official inaugural address at Bengaluru, warned that “the increasing number of frivolous or premature cases is a disease that plagues all courts in India including the Supreme Court. Owing to this, cases needing genuine aid from Court may not get time.”
Thankfully, the Ram & Laxman case was later dismissed, but it does reveal one of the many directions in which our present CJI must travel to bring about judicial reforms that will go a long way in bringing down what he called “an avalanche” of cases filed in our courts as well as the unresolved ones. The quantity of judges could be just one cause of it all; the other causes are in the big hidden package of the judicial framework which needs a revolutionary reform.
Because the CJI himself seems over burdened with stress and court work, the best course would be to entrust this task to a committee from diverse professions under the chairmanship of Justice Dattu who had advocated such reforms during his tenure. Yes, our justice delivery system does need a massive “surgical strike”.
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 66.71 Rupees.
2. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
3. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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