Courting Nightmare: Justices Delayed Too is Justice Denied

Judiciary faces mammoth crisis; over 500 vacancies likely by 2017; NJAC makes matters worse.

Published: 05th October 2015 05:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th October 2015 05:01 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: Justice delayed is justice denied. The delay in appointment of judges is justice delayed even more. The judiciary, already facing a mammoth crisis of vacant judicial positions and a staggering number of over 3.2 crore pending cases, will soon be seriously strained at the edges. 

Moreover, uncertainty prevails over the new ruling on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which is expected anytime this month. The five-judge constitution bench had reserved its judgment on July 15 after a hearing that stretched over 31 days. One more vacancy will be added to the Supreme Court benches in December when Justice Vikramjit Sen retires.

Courting.JPGThe apex court, which is currently short of three judges, will witness the rise of vacancies to four when the New Year bells ring out the old. As many as 61,300 cases remain unresolved in the highest court of the land. Former Law Commission chairperson and retired Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah said the vacancies will keep on increasing if we don’t change our standard of legal education. “It is high time we had a separate course wherein we could teach a law student how to become a judge. When countries like France and Germany have this in their curriculum, India should opt for the same.” Latest data from the Ministry of Law and Justice reports that vacancies in High Courts could rise to 469 till 2016 and, at this rate, could touch over 500 by 2017. If new appointments cannot be expedited, by the end of this decade, 876 judicial chairs will be empty across India. Currently, all High Courts are facing a shortfall of 406 against the 1,017 sanctioned posts, nearly 40 per cent of their ideal strength. As long as the NJAC roadblock remains, the vacancy list will keep increasing with every passing month.

The crisis is unlikely to be solved anytime soon. So far, the stalemate has resulted in all the appointments of judges being put on hold as the SC’s collegium system had ceased to exist after the notification of NJAC. The new law, which scrapped the collegium system, came into force on April 13.

Former Law Minister Veerappa Moily said, “The government has put the entire judiciary in embarrassment. NJAC has stalled all appointments and the saddest part is many bright judges could not be promoted to Supreme Court because of this and thus retired. This has never happened.”


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