Long holidays hurt justice delivery

Concept of legal studying isolated on whitelaw

The need to reduce the large number of holidays enjoyed by courts in India has often been discussed but no action has been taken on it. A petition filed in the Supreme Court has asked for definite action in the matter. Over 3.1 crore cases are pending for decision in various courts and the backlog is increasing every day. The long holidays are a factor that contributes in a major way to the delay in the resolution of cases. Courts have a long summer vacation and winter and puja breaks, apart from weekly and national holidays. The Supreme Court’s summer vacation was reduced from 10 weeks to seven weeks in 2013. It was then noted that the Supreme Court worked only for 193 days a year, high courts for 210 days and trial courts for 245 days. The vacation benches hear only urgent matters and so hardly have an impact. The petition wants courts to work for a minimum of 225 days a year and six hours a day. 

Long holidays are a colonial legacy and there is no need to continue with it. The Law Commission and a parliamentary standing committee have recommended that the working days of courts be increased. Some former chief justices of India have supported the view. Justice R M Lodha, when he was the CJI, suggested that the courts should remain open for the whole year and judges should take their leaves at different times of the year. He had discussed the proposal with all stake-holders, such as the Bar Council of India. Though no-one objected to it, the proposal was not followed up. Lawyers were worried about how their vacations would match the days when the judges went on leave. 

Some other countries also have long vacations for courts but they have far more judges than Indian courts have and there is hardly any pendency of cases. India has only 13 judges per million people while the UK and the US have 100 and 130 judges per million respectively. Even then, the US has abolished the system of long court holidays. The Supreme Court will hopefully issue an order in the matter as there seems to be no other way to cut down on the number of court holidays. The petition has also sought the setting up of division benches at the district level and a ban on lawyers being appointed as judges where they have practised and where their relatives practise. As the petition pointed out, speedy justice is a basic right of the citizen and the court’s holidays should be seen in that context. 

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Long holidays hurt justice delivery

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