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In an almost unprecedented act, Calcutta High Court judges have come out against what they say was “stepmotherly treatment” of the court by the Centre.

And there was good reason for this outburst, which happened on Thursday (July 13). The bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and Debi Prosad Dey warned the government of “appropriate action” if no action was taken in addressing the pitiable condition of judges in the court. Where the sanctioned strength of judges in the court was 72, the current strength was just 34, with seven scheduled to retire by year-end.

The judges called for quick appointment of judges to the country’s oldest high court.

Said the bench: “It is made clear that continued silence of the Central government in the matter of appointment of judges in the near future despite the concerns expressed in this order would certainly be viewed seriously as interference in the course of administration of justice and followed by appropriate action as authorised in law.”

The bench also said: “The time is now ripe for speaking our mind out or else this premier institution, which has stood tall despite several odds, would gradually lose its efficacy.”

The court also directed that a copy of the order must be sent to Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad “so that the matter relating to appointment of judges in this court is given topmost priority”.

Said the bench: “Can the nation think of the Lok Sabha in a functional state with half of its elected members? Can legislative assemblies function at half strength? The answer cannot be in the affirmative. The Lok Sabha and/or the legislative assemblies are important Constitutional entities and it would be a disgrace for the largest democracy of the world if elections were not conducted on time,” the court said.

—India Legal Bureau

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