Pending of cases not only due to shortage of judges

Govt lists various reasons for backlog

Pending of cases not only due to shortage of judges

The government does not believe the shortage of judges is the lone reason for backlog of cases. It pins the blame on various causes, including shortage of public prosecutors, recurrent adjournments and improper application of rules.

The ministry of law and justice made this submission before a parliamentary panel, where it also cited the rejection by the Supreme Court collegium of 30% of possible candidates and an increase in the sanctioned strength of judges as the reasons for the continuing vacancies in the higher judiciary.

However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has not taken the government’s justification kindly. The ministry’s reasoning on both the counts was detailed in a report tabled by the panel, headed by Congress MP Anand Sharma earlier this month.

“The shortage of judges is not the sole reason for inordinate delay in disposal of cases. Cases are delayed on account of improper investigation, lack of forensic laboratories, shortage of public prosecutors, recurrent adjournments and improper application of rules and procedures,” the ministry said in its action taken report to the panel.

To buttress the point, it said the Delhi and Gujarat High Courts have a higher number of judges per million of their respective populations, but they still have a high number of pending cases.

On the vacancies’ front, the ministry informed the panel that the approved strength of judges in high courts is 1,079 and there is a vacancy of 459 judges.

It said no fresh appointments were made between April and December 2015 when the National Judicial Appointments Commission case was being heard by the apex court.

‘Not at all satisfied’

The panel was “not at all satisfied” with the ministry’s reply. “The department (of Justice) cannot evade its responsibility in ensuring that vacancies in the higher judiciary are filled up in the shortest possible time by saying that other factors are also responsible for the huge pendency in higher courts,” it said.

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