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CJI blames judicial vacancies for cases backlog, Rijiju promises to bring down pendency in 2 yrs

Speaking at the ‘18th All India Legal Services Authorities Meet’ in Jaipur, CJI Ramana says that in the current criminal justice system 'process becomes punishment'.

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New Delhi: Judicial vacancies and lack of infrastructure were responsible for India’s backlog of cases, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said Saturday.

Ramana’s statement came in response to a comment made by Union Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, who said that “the pendency of cases” was a major problem in India.
Both CJI Ramana and Rijiju were speaking at the inaugural session of the ‘18th All India Legal Services Authorities Meet’ in Jaipur.
Talking about solving the problem of pending cases, Rijiju told the gathering that he had told his department to bring down the number significantly in the next two years.
“Total pendency of cases will touch 5 crore as we celebrate Aazadi ka Amrit Mahotsava— and it’s like a burden on me,” Rijiju said. “What’ll be the situation after 25 years? I talked to officials in my department yesterday [Friday] to bring the number down by 2 crore in 2 years,” the law minister said in his address.
He also said that the central government was going to get 71 obsolete Acts repealed during Parliament’s Monsoon Session that starts Monday. 
Judicial vacancies have been a point of contention between the Centre and the judiciary for years, with successive CJIs calling for them to be filled. CJI Ramana said Saturday that he had raised the problem of judicial vacancies at the conference between chief justices and chief ministers held on 30 April. 
“You all know the reasons for pendency. I need not elaborate on it. I already indicated this in the last Chief Justices-Chief Ministers conference. You all know the most important reason is the non-filling up of the judicial vacancies and not improving the judicial infrastructure.”
The central government has come under criticism from the Supreme Court several times in the past year alone for judicial vacancies in lower courts and tribunals across the country.  
On 23 February, the court blamed “bureaucratic hurdles” for vacancies in consumer courts.
In October last year, the Centre faced some harsh criticism from the court for creating an “imbroglio” over the functioning of tribunals and making “citizens suffer in the bargain”. 

In August and September last year, a bench led by the CJI reproached the Supreme Court for “emasculating tribunals” by not filling up vacancies. 

Also Read: Tussle over tribunals continues, after HC rules only judges or lawyers can be judicial members

‘Process is a punishment’

In his address, Chief Justice Ramana said that delays in justice delivery and long trials need to be addressed on a priority basis. 

“In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty indiscriminate arrests to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to prolonged incarceration of undertrials needs urgent attention,” he said. 

In his speech, Rijiju said that it was important to have  “synergy” between the judiciary and executive to address the judicial burden. 

Justice, he said, was a right, and not a privilege, and the doors to justice should be open for all equally. It should, therefore, be affordable and within reach, he said. 

“Resourceful people can afford big lawyers. There are lawyers in Supreme Court whose fees a common man cannot afford. If they charge Rs. 10-15 lakh per hearing, how can a common man pay,” he said.

“The intention of the Government is to ease the requirement of legal compliances for the common people,” Rijiju said.

Rijiju said the use of regional and local languages should be promoted in India’s lower and high courts. 

“Arguments and judgment in Supreme Court happen in English. But our vision is that in high courts and lower courts, regional and local languages need to be given priority,” he said. “Litigants should have the freedom to address the court in their mother tongue. I’m strongly against replacing our mother tongues with English.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who also spoke at the event, brought up the Supreme Court’s excoriating remarks against former Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the criticism it had to face. 

Recently Justices Surya Kant and Pardiwala said something. It is our duty to respect the judiciary. 116 people were made to stand up (against the two judges), including former High Court and Supreme Court judges, bureaucracy, and officers,” he said. “I don’t know how this was managed and an issue was created out of it,” said Gehlot.  

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: SC warns govt of contempt proceedings if tribunal appointments aren’t done in a week


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