To deal with the piling backlog of cases, the Supreme Court and high court judges must cut down holidays and put in longer hours at work, said a body that advises the government on law and judicial reforms.
“Considering the staggering arrears, vacations in the higher judiciary must be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days and the court working hours should be extended by at least half an hour,” the law commission has said.
The commission is appointed by the government to review and suggest changes in the legal system. A former Supreme Court judge heads it, but its recommendations are not binding.
The above suggestion comes in a report given to law minister Veerappa Moily on Wednesday. The government has not yet taken a view on it, and an official in the ministry said it was too early to respond.
The Supreme Court works only 190 days a year, by its own admission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice. That’s just a little over six months. A long summer vacation, weekly offs and national holidays such as the Independence Day make up the rest.
And look at the pending cases: 50,000 in the Supreme Court and 37 lakh in the 21 high courts in the country. The apex court adds thousands to the backlog every year with its present pace of work.
“It is an outdated British legacy which should have been done away with six decades back,” said former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, adding he couldn’t think of any other country where judges have as many holidays
This is a hangover from the colonial days when the scalding heat of Delhi summer forced the judges – mostly British when the practice took root – to shut down the courts and escape to Shimla, the nearest hill station.
When independent India switched to its own legal system, it borrowed heavily from the colonial set up, including the vacations, which Verma said, should have been dropped.
They could perhaps reach down to the lower courts for inspiration – they have a much shorter summer vacation , only 24 days compared to 50 days for SC and 30 for HCs.