As Narendra Modi prepares to take over as Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has expressed hope that the new government would give more attention to the judiciary, which faces an uphill task of clearing a backlog of over three crore cases.
“Governments think the judiciary is a non-productive organ of the state. They hardly spend on the judiciary...less than 0.5 per cent of the budget is spent on the judiciary. Let’s hope the new government gives more attention to the judiciary,” the CJI told HT.
Justice Lodha said speedy disposal of cases, particularly corporate disputes, will certainly have a positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Barely 0.11 per cent of the 2014-15 central budget of Rs. 17.60 lakh crore is proposed to be spent on law and justice.
The CJI said clearing the backlog needed enhancement of judicial manpower and augmentation of infrastructure.
“In Allahabad High Court, almost half of the 160 sanctioned posts of judges are vacant. Even if we want to fill these vacancies, we can’t. The existing infrastructure — in terms of building and other facilities — is not sufficient to accommodate even the current strength,” Lodha said, adding “Even the Lucknow Bench can accommodate only a limited number of judges.”
According to latest data available on the Supreme Court website, the Allahabad High Court has only 88 judges and over 10.22 lakh cases are awaiting disposal.
Lodha also blamed delay at the government’s end for an unusually high number of vacancies in high courts.
The CJI, who has started the practice of having a regular Constitution Bench in view of a large number of cases involving constitutional issues pending in the SC, also floated the idea of having a Court of Appeal between high courts and the Supreme Court on the lines of one functioning in South Africa.
“In South Africa the Supreme Court only hears constitutional matters and all appeals arising out of any criminal or civil cases are decided by the Court of Appeal. We can consider having this kind of system in India,” Lodha said, adding “It needs to be discusses and debated.”
The CJI outlined five-point agenda to deal with problems facing the judiciary.
Simplification of procedure, change in mindset of advocates and judges, quality legal education, promoting judiciary as a career among law graduates and augmentation of infrastructure. He said All India Judicial Service was a good idea to have well-trained judges.
“But all this would need money. Judiciary should be on one of the priorities of the government,” Lodha said.