Pending cases and shortage of judges

Justice delivery system must deliver justice which is prompt and less expensive or at reasonably affordable cost . It won’t be any exaggeration to say that even one of the acid tests of a Government of calibre and eminence lies in the levels of efficiency of its judicial system. Having said so, why is then such a long list of pendency of court cases in the country at every level of judicial system, right from lower courts to High courts straight up to the Apex Court ? The pragmatic viewing of the entire problem needs to take into account all the contributing factors and not merely traditionally a few of them. Well, that in itself being debatable, the coming years , would herald a series of judicial reforms and innovations to lend more respect, grace , impartiality and professional efficiency to the entire judicial system.
One of the main factors is the shortage of judges which needs to be given serious consideration. The Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had to write to the Prime Minister to “kindly consider , on top priority , to augment the judge strength in the Supreme Court appropriately so that it can function more efficiently and effectively “. There are no less pendency of cases , by any standard , in high courts and the Supreme Court numbering nearly 45 lakhs , the duration of pendency on individual case basis could be really astonishing . If justice in real terms has to be given, it should appear to be meaningful in the sense that fundamentally it must be delivered within a time frame . There are , however, innumerable instances , a harsh reality we must not only accept but share too, that during the lifetime of a litigant justice could not be delivered. That in simple parlance is tantamount to denial of justice and a violation of the guaranteed fundamental right. How long can we afford it?
The Chief Justice of India is, therefore, rightly concerned about the huge backlog of cases and thus has requested for the intervention of the Prime Minister for at least arranging to fill the vacancies of the judges. It does not augur well for the system to have a shortage of as many as 399 judges in the country’s high courts .Even the serving judges nearing their attaining superannuation may be ‘retained’ by means of increasing the retiring age from the present 62 to 65 years , has been the other suggestion made to the Government. For that, a constitutional amendment is necessary and there should be no problem on that count . Since the Government is committed to perform and deliver, it must walk the talk on this count too which has attained sensitive and demanding proportions. The CJI has also requested the Prime Minister to consider making ‘tenure appointments ‘ of retired Apex Court judges and High Court judges under relevant Articles of the constitution to take on the huge backlog of the cases. These tenure appointees judges could be assigned long pending cases for disposal.
The requests and suggestions made by the CJI in respect of breaking the inertia in matters of the huge backlog of the court cases need immediate and serious attention. It is heartening to note, however, that the Supreme Court has recently achieved its full strength of 31 judges but is having nearly 60000 pending cases for disposal. A critical appraisal of the net working days in high courts and the apex court too is the need of the hour if concern is really to deliver prompt justice and ways and methods needed to be found out to increase the same including doing away with the traditional summer vacations during which, these cases hardly come up for hearing. A meticulously planned slew of solutions including appointments and promotions to deal with the pendency of cases must be the response to the CJI’s concerns.