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Parliamentary Standing Committee seeks data on social diversity in higher judiciary appointments, for increasing High Court judges’ retirement age

As per the data supplied by the Committee, there are 4.34 crore cases pending in country, which includes 3.77 crore in Subordinate Courts, 57 lakh (approx.) in High Courts and 66,000 (approx.) in the Supreme Court as on February 28, 2021.

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has recommended that the Department of Justice submit social diversity statistics in the appointments of the higher judiciary to provide effective representation so that the composition of the judiciary should reflect socio-economic diversity and inclusiveness.

The Committee members have said that there is a need to revisit the age of retirement of High Court judges in the background of the increasing pendency of cases. Members have also said the pendency at all levels of hierarchy can be dealt by increasing the number of working days of judges.

In the 107th Report on Demand for Grants for the Law Ministry for 2020-2021, the Committee chaired by BJP MP Bhupender Yadav, and composed of 27 other MPs, 9 from the Rajya Sabha and 18 from the Lok Sabha, said, “When Judges of Supreme Court can work up to 65 years of age, there is no rationale in retiring the High Court Judges at 62, and therefore, reiterates and recommends the Department to raise the age of retirement of High Courts judges from 62 to 65 years so that there is uniform age of retirement in both Supreme Court and High Courts. Notably, the retirement age in different Tribunals has also been increased up to 70 years for Chairman and 65 years for Members.”

While making scrutiny of Demands for Grants, the Committee has made an appraisal of performance, programmes, policies of the Ministry of Law and Justice vis-à-vis expenditure made out of Consolidated Fund of India in the current Financial Year.

In its report, the Committee expressed concern over the declining rate of judicial appointments in the country, invariably leading to increased number of pending cases.

The High Courts had 39% posts of Judges vacant against the approved strength of 1080 Judges in High Courts, only 661 are in position with 419 vacancies.

The Committee has also informed that about 12% posts of Judges remain vacant. On top of it, as against retirement of 3 Judges in the year 2020, no appointment has been made. The Committee notes several reasons for decline in the appointment rate such as time line for appointments are rarely adhered to by the Executive and the Judiciary. For instance, the Committee noted that the High Courts are not initiating the proposal for appointment of Judges as per the Memorandum of Procedure; there is a delay upto 6 years in some High Courts in filling the vacancies.

Overall, the average time taken for appointment of Judges in High Courts is between 5-7 months. Another reason for the delay is high rate of rejection by the Collegiums. In this context the Committee noted that the Supreme Court Collegium rejects about 40-50% recommendations made by the High Court Collegiums.

The Law Ministry tells Lok Sabha Regional Supreme Court Benches in its report that the Committee has reiterated the need for setting up of Supreme Court Benches in other parts of the country, with a view to providing justice to the poor, for whom it is impossible to visit the national capital.

The Committee directs the department to submit its view on the matter for its consideration.

As per the data supplied by the Committee, there are 4.34 crore cases pending in country, which includes 3.77 crore in Subordinate Courts, 57 lakh (approx.) in High Courts and 66,000 (approx.) in the Supreme Court as on February 28, 2021.

Read Also: Along with increased awareness campaigns, the role of courts assumes great importance in realising ADR’s full potential: Justice NV Ramana

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