A day after President Pratibha Patil slammed the judiciary for a huge backlog of cases, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said on Sunday that a recent decision to increase the number of Supreme Court judges would alone not solve the problem until the courts better scrutinised the petitions before admitting them.
Speaking on the eve of Budget Session, the Speaker said, “My humble experience is more the number of judges, more would be the arrears. I would prefer quality and determination, not showmanship. Much greater scrutiny is required at the time of admission of cases.”
Chatterjee said the decision to increase the number of Supreme Court judges would prove to be counter-productive, as has been seen in high courts and lower courts. He appealed to the judiciary to give priority to cases of public importance.
“How many of the petitions really deserved even admission and how many of the cases would ever be disposed of on merits? I may not be misunderstood for holding the view that mere increase in the number of judges will only result in more pending cases and inevitably more delay,” he said.
President Patil had said on Saturday that judiciary could not escape the blame for delayed justice, which was frustrating the common man.
The Speaker criticised the judiciary for resisting any change in the procedure for appointment of judges and questioned the procedure, saying, “India is perhaps the only country in the world where judges appoint themselves. They have completely taken this power and judiciary is the only institution which has no accountability.”
Chatterjee said it was essential to involve people from outside judiciary in the appointment of judges. “This concept of infallibility of judiciary is not good, it harms the functioning of democracy.”
On corruption in judiciary, he said, “It is a matter of agony that in the past even a whisper was not heard about the judiciary, but now people no less than former chief justices of India have openly admitted corruption in the institution.”
“One former CJI said nearly 20 per cent judges were corrupt, the other said he could not do anything about it. Is this not a sad state of affairs. The judiciary should not make itself an untouchable and should come forward to root out corruption,” Chatterjee said.
Expressing surprise at the recent remarks by the Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, against a social activist associated with the Gujarat riot victims, the Speaker said, “I doubt whether it was correctly recorded. Can anybody in this country be denied justice on the basis of utterances? Judicial observations are not judgments, as these are not supported by any arguments.”