Over 50% judges' posts vacant in Calcutta HC

Over 50% judges' posts vacant in Calcutta HC

The 150-year-old Calcutta High Court building in Kolkata, where scarcity of judges has become a concern among legal experts. PTI file photo

The Calcutta High Court, the oldest high court in the country, is facing a severe shortage of judges with nearly 55% of the sanctioned posts of judges lying vacant. Out of the sanctioned strength of 72, it has only 39 judges at present. 

“What makes the situation even worse is that at present, more than 2.20 lakh cases are pending before the high court,” secretary of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association Amal Mukherjee told DH.

The Bar Association along with two other lawyers’ organisations held a 71-day-long cease of work in protest against the shortage of judges. The cease of work started on February 19, 2018.

Even though in February three more judges were appointed followed by four more in April, and two lawyers were selected to be high court judges, the existing strength of judges at the court is still far from crossing the 50% mark. 

The situation has been a matter of concern for the Bar Association as well as legal experts, including former Supreme Court judges.

Senior members of the Bar Association argued that with the number of pending cases piling up, the strength of judges must be at least 50% of the sanctioned strength. 

“The ongoing shortage of judges is only having an adverse effect on the justice delivery system. It is the common people who are suffering,” said Mukherjee.

Describing the shortage of judges as an “unprecedented crisis” former Supreme Court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly said that “...the Centre has some responsibility here. I do not know why they are not clearing the recommendations made by the Supreme Court Collegium,” said Justice (retd) Ganguly.

He also said that with people becoming more conscious of their rights, they are approaching the courts in larger number. “The government is passing certain laws these days which impact the lives of common people and hence, they are approaching the courts. Moreover, there is almost no justice at the administrative level,” he said. 

The former judge also criticised the Centre over the issue. “The government has sadly failed in this regard (of maintaining adequate number of judges)," he said. 

Another former Supreme Court judge K S Panicker Radhakrishnan expressed his apprehension over the issue and said that the “matter has to be taken very seriously, both at the judicial and at the executive level. The number of pending cases is alarming, and resulting into the suffering of litigants.” 

Former Supreme Court judge Ruma Pal argued that in order to address the issue, it has to be found out that at which stage of the process the matter is getting held up. “Until the cause of the problem is known, it cannot be addressed properly,” she said.