Calcutta HC warns Narendra Modi govt of ‘action’ if judges’ posts are not filled
There are more than 400 posts of high court judges that lie vacant across the country. The Central government is believed to be the country’s biggest litigator, being a party in about half of the 27 million pending cases.india Updated: Jul 13, 2017 15:32 IST
The Calcutta high court on Thursday warned the Narendra Modi government of “appropriate action” if appointments of judges were not made at the earliest.
The country’s oldest high court has a sanctioned strength of 72 judges but at present there are only 34, and by the year-end seven are due to retire.
“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,” said a bench of justices Dipankar Datta and Debi Prosad Dey.
Accusing the Centre of adopting a step- motherly attitude towards Calcutta high court, the bench 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”.
The comments came during a hearing on a bail application of actor Vikram Chatterjee in a case involving the death of model Sonika Chauhan.
There are more than 400 posts of high court judges that lie vacant across the country. Though there are no official figures, the government is the country’s biggest litigator, being a party in about half of the country’s 27 million pending cases.
A standoff between the judiciary and the government in the last 18 months over drafting of the new Memorandum of Procedure, the guidelines for appointing judges, has added to the problem. It is pending due to differences on its contents between the executive and the collegium. The friction between the two sides repeatedly hit the headlines during previous Chief Justice of India TS Thakur’s time.
“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.
This is not the first time that the judiciary has raised the issue of judges appointments to high courts. Last year, former chief justice of India TS Thakur broke down at a meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while stressing on the need for more judges.