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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Judges Appointed : Rajasthan gets new Chief Justice

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The appointment of Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice and four Andhra Pradesh High Court Judges was announced but more than 280 sanctioned posts nationwide have been vacant and the pendency of cases has been on the rise. 

Rajasthan High Court Judge Arun Kumar Mishra has been appointed Chief Justice of the High Court by President Pratibha Patil, a Law and Justice Ministry announcement said. 

Andhra Pradesh High Court Additional Judges Bejjaram Chandra Kumar, Nalla Bhuma Narayan Rao, Samudrala Govindarajulu and Noushad Ali, in that order of seniority, have been appointed Judges of the High Court, another Ministry announcement said. 

The Ministry said appointments take effect from the date of assumption of office. 

Vacancy in High Courts rose from 273 of 895 sanctioned posts-- reported by Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily in Parliament in March 2010-- to 285 in September 2010-- reported by the Justice Department. 

Those and 2,980 vacancies in 16,990 District Courts have been a cause of concern in a nation facing serious discipline issues compounded by court delays and mounting pendency. 

The courts between them have an estimated 31.54 million cases pending, reflecting unresolved conflicts citizens live with-- a perspective on vacancies! The government knows that vacant judgeships contribute to increasing case pendency and arrears in courts. 

Dr Moily is on record having told Parliament that ‘delay in filling up the vacancies of Judges is one of the main reasons for accumulation of pending cases in courts.’ The government is often at pains to explain that appointment of Judges was turned over to the judiciary-- Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of the concerned High Court-- by a 1993 Supreme Court judgement. 

The government ‘periodically’ reminds the Chief Justices to initiate proposals in time to fill up existing vacancies and those anticipated six months ahead, Dr Moily says. 

The process to fill vacancies is supposed to begin six months before a retirement is due-- a date known the moment a judge is appointed. 

But as the government acknowledged in Parliament in 2009, eleven High Courts were yet to initiate proposals to fill up all posts ‘that were vacant in 2007.’ It has been over a year since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the urgency of filling up Court vacancies. 

‘The existing vacancies in High Courts are quite high in number and need to be filled up urgently,’ he told a Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices. 

Notwithstanding the advent of internet and a clamour for transparency, opacity has remained a major issue. 

Even provisions of a Right to Information notified in 2005 and projected by Dr Singh as a major United Progressive Alliance achievement, have been questioned by the judiciary. 

Referring to the 1993 Supreme Court judgement by then Justice J S Verma, one expert says assuming there was merit in reducing executive role, it could well have been a move towards transparency. 

The expert saw no reason why public input is not encouraged by circulating names of proposed candidates before appointment-- a move that needed no Constitutional or legislative amendment, just norms. 

Experts agree that with 31 million plus cases pending, many for decades, and barely 18,000 judges sanctioned against a recommended 55,000 strength, vacancies may be the last thing Indian courts can afford.


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