Positive step

The Central government’s decision to increase the number of judges in high courts by 25 per cent is a positive step which can help in dealing with the increasing problem of judicial backlog. As a result, the total number of high court judges in the country will go up from 906 to 1112.

The strength of the Karnataka High Court will increase from 48 to 60 each and so is the strength of the Delhi High Court. With the filling of the 206 new positions and the existing 250 vacancies, it is hoped that high courts will be able to better tackle the huge pile of 40 lakh cases pending with them. The government’s decision has come in response to an initiative taken by the Supreme Court. The law ministry has also written to the high courts for recommendations to fill up the vacancies and on the required follow-up measures.

The number of judges in the country at all levels of the judiciary is low in relation to the population when compared with other countries. That is one reason for the ever rising arrears of cases. Increasing the strength of the judiciary is not enough. How will the new vacancies be filled, if it is difficult to fill even the existing vacancies, as seen by the current backlog? Experience shows that it is not easy to find the right, capable and willing persons for judges’ positions.

Controversies like the recent one over recommendations for appointment as judges in the Madras High Court are also delaying factors. It is also not enough to have sufficient number of judges. Courts should have the required infrastructure also, including physical facilities, to support the increased judicial strength.

Information technology is used in courts to reduce delays and to increase efficiency. But there is more scope to use it for modernisation of systems in many ways. Many rules and procedures of courts are still archaic and they need to be changed. Delays due to frequent adjournments and long hearings are common. There have been many proposals to improve the functioning of courts and to reduce delays and they should receive better attention.

The strength of the lower judiciary should also be increased and their working should be improved. There are more cases pending at that level and many of them go to higher levels, putting pressure on higher courts. State governments should take the initiative in this respect.

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