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150 additional judges for HCs: Law Minister

The government has also decided to fully fund the computerisation of lower courts.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 10:54 IST

Faced with the increasing number of pending cases in courts, the Centre on Wednesday decided to add about 150 more judges to benches of high courts across the country.

The government has also decided to fully fund the computerisation of lower courts and to fill up judicial vacancies at all levels.

The tenure of fast-track courts financed by the Centre have also been extended by another five years till 2010.

"We have a definite programme to deal with arrears of cases, improving the judicial infrastructure through central funding of computerisation of subordinate courts across the country and filling up vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the lower courts," Law Minister HR Bhardwaj said.

While over 35,000 cases were pending in the Supreme Court till March 2006, the backlog in 21 high courts till December 2005 was over 35 lakhs and in subordinate courts more than 2.5 crore. There are over 2,800 judicial vacancies.

On the multi-pronged strategy adopted by the ministry to deal with these issues, Bhardwaj said that the strength of the Supreme Court and the high courts was being reviewed.

"After filling up seven existing vacancies in high courts, the government has decided to create posts of 150 additional judges in the high courts to expedite disposal of pending cases," he said.

Bhardwaj said that when the UPA government came to office in May 2004, it had "inherited" from the NDA regime 307 vacancies in high courts of which 220 have been filled up.

Judges to four posts in the Supreme Court would be appointed soon in consultation with Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, he said. Against the approved strength of 26 judges, the Court has 22 at present.

In the high courts, while the approved strength is 726 judges, the number of posts vacant is 87, and in district and subordinate courts the vacancies touch a staggering 2,730 against the sanctioned posts of 14,412.

Explaining the reason for extending the tenure of fast track courts, he said that a record ten lakh cases had been disposed off out of 19 lakh cases before them. They would continue to be fully sponsored by the Centre, he said.

On modernisation of the judicial infrastructure, the Law Minister said that the Centre would be providing 100 per cent funding of the computerisation programme of lower courts.

Procedural reforms were also being undertaken by the subordinate judiciary to scale-down the backlog, he said.

He said that concerted efforts were underway by the judiciary to club cases having similar points of law so that a single court could dispose off such cases pending before different benches.

"By this practise, a court may dispose off, as an example, over 100 cases of a similar nature in one go," he said.

Citing the example of Karnataka, Bhardwaj said the state was "revolutionising" the judicial infrstructure through computerisation and technical upgradation methods, "the results of which would be obvious as arrears in court would naturally come down".

Observing that the Centre's efforts were more focussed on the lower judiciary, he said that the Ministry was also considering establishing "grass-root" courts in rural areas.

"By and large, all efforts are to meet targets with regard to modernisation of the judicial infrstructure," he added.

In Delhi alone, the High Court has six positions and subordinate courts have 123 positions waiting to be filled, while 78,379 and 7,86,464 cases are pending in the two courts respectively.

But it is the district and subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh that have by far the largest number of vacancies with 756 out of an approved strength of 2,172 seats unfilled.