NEW DELHI: With a backlog of cases, the Indian judiciary, the Supreme Court of India and other high courts have been following the practice of more than a month-long summer vacation and week-long Holi, Diwali and Dussehra holidays. As per the latest National Judicial Data Grid statistics, over 3 crore cases are pending across courts in India.
The Supreme Court is reopening tomorrow after a summer break of 45 days and will be working for 188 days this year, high courts work for 210 days and trial courts 245 days a year. Though the apex court rules specify that there has to be a minimum of 225 working days but the rules were not adhered to. On average, courts get off for around 160 days off on account of vacations, weekends and national holidays. However, out of 13 courts functioning in the apex court, one of them sits during vacations to hear urgent cases.
The Supreme Court is presently working with 23 judges and one more vacancy would be created on July 6 when Justice A K Goel will retire. A public interest litigation (PIL) has also been filed before the court demanding that court vacations, a British era practice, be cut short in order to reduce the ever-mounting pendency of cases. "Right to speedy justice is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," said the PIL filed by Supreme Court lawyer and BJP spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay adding that there is a need to reduce the vacations of judges and they should sit for the whole day so that the maximum number of cases can be disposed of.
Former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha who floated the idea of a Supreme Court that works 365 days a year was not welcomed by the lawyers and Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils instead suggested having courts open six days a week, increasing the working hours and appointing more judges.
The 230th Law Commission in its report in 2009 had recommended that vacations in the higher judiciary should be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days and the tendency of the lawyers to seek adjournments on flimsy grounds should be re-evaluated.
Supreme Court of United States does not have a yearly vacation. Although the hearing sittings are limited to a few months during the rest of the year, the judges are 'at work', researching the cases before them, holding conferences, etc.
Last year, three Constitution Benches had functioned simultaneously, along with the usual vacation bench and heard case of triple talaq and right to privacy. But this year, apart from usual vacation bench, no special benches were constituted.