Archive

Posts Tagged ‘judges’

Case not closed – Appointment of judges

September 5th, 2013 2 comments

Parliament is considering a proposal to change the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.  A Constitutional Amendment Bill has been introduced in Rajya Sabha that enables the formation of a Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC), and states that the composition and functions of the JAC will be detailed in a law enacted by Parliament.  The appointments will be made according to the recommendations of the JAC.  This body replaces the current process of “consultation” with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other senior judges.

An ordinary Bill has also been introduced in Rajya Sabha which seeks to establish the JAC.  The composition of the JAC will be the CJI, the next two judges of the Supreme Court in terms of seniority, the law minister and two eminent persons.  These two eminent persons will be selected by a collegium consisting of the CJI, the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.  In case of High Court Judges, the JAC will consult with the chief minister, the governor of the state and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

The new system is widening the selection committee.  It includes representatives of the executive and senior judiciary, as well as two persons who are jointly selected by the executive (PM), judiciary (CJI), and the legislature (leader of opposition).

However, it may be diluting some of the safeguards in the Constitution.  At a later date, the composition of the JAC can be amended by ordinary majority in Parliament.  [For example, they can drop the judicial members.]  This is a significantly lower bar than the current system which requires a change to the Constitution, i.e., have the support of two thirds of members of each House of Parliament, and half the state assemblies.

The 120th Constitution Amendment Bill and the JAC Bill are listed for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha today.  Given that these Bills propose fundamental changes to the process of appointments to key constitutional bodies, it is important that there be a wide debate.  The Rajya Sabha must refer these Bills to the Standing Committee for careful examination of various issues.

I have written a piece on this issue in the Indian Express today.

 

 

 

 

An Overview of Fast Track Courts

December 31st, 2012 5 comments

Recently, Delhi witnessed large scale protests by various groups demanding stricter punishment and speedier trial in cases of sexual assault against women.  In light of the protests, the central government has constituted a Commission (headed by Justice Verma) to suggest possible amendments in the criminal law to ensure speedier disposal of cases relating to sexual assault.  Though the Supreme Court, in 1986, had recognised speedy trial to be a fundamental right, India continues to have a high number of pending cases.

In 2012, the net pendency in High Courts and subordinate courts decreased by over 6 lakh cases. However, there is still a substantial backlog of cases across various courts in the country.  As per the latest information given by the Ministry of Law and Justice, there are 43.2 lakh cases pending in the High Courts and 2.69 crore cases pending in the district courts.[1]

After the recent gang-rape of a 23 year old girl, the Delhi High Court directed the state government to establish five Fast Track Courts (FTCs) for the expeditious adjudication of cases relating to sexual assault.   According to a news report, other states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have also begun the process of establishing FTCs for rape cases.  In this blog, we look at the status of pending cases in various courts in the country, the number of vacancies of judges and the status of FTCs in the country.

Vacancies in the High Courts and the Subordinate Courts

One of the reasons for the long delay in the disposal of cases is the high number of vacancies in position for judges in the High Courts and the District Courts of the country.  As of December 1, 2012, the working strength of the High Court judges was 613 as against the sanctioned strength of 895 judges.  This reflects a 32% vacancy of judges across various High Courts in the country.  The highest number of vacancies is in the Allahabad High Court with a working strength of 86 judges against the sanctioned strength of 160 judges (i.e. vacancy of 74 judges).   The situation is not much better at the subordinate level.  As on September 30, 2011, the sanctioned strength of judges at the subordinate level was 18,123 judges as against a working strength of 14,287 judges (i.e. 21% vacancy).  The highest vacancy is in Gujarat with 794 vacancies of judges, followed by Bihar with 690 vacancies.

Fast Track Courts

The 11th Finance Commission had recommended a scheme for the establishment of 1734 FTCs for the expeditious disposal of cases pending in the lower courts.  In this regard, the Commission had allocated Rs 500 crore.   FTCs were to be established by the state governments in consultation with the respective High Courts.  An average of five FTCs were to be established in each district of the country.  The judges for these FTCs were appointed on an adhoc basis.  The judges were selected by the High Courts of the respective states.  There are primarily three sources of recruitment.  First, by promoting members from amongst the eligible judicial officers; second, by appointing retired High Court judges and third, from amongst members of the Bar of the respective state.

FTCs were initially established for a period of five years (2000-2005).  However, in 2005, the Supreme Court[2] directed the central government to continue with the FTC scheme, which was extended until 2010-2011.  The government discontinued the FTC scheme in March 2011.  Though the central government stopped giving financial assistance to the states for establishing FTCs, the state governments could establish FTCs from their own funds.  The decision of the central government not to finance the FTCs beyond 2011 was challenged in the Supreme Court.  In 2012, the Court upheld the decision of the central government.[3]  It held that the state governments have the liberty to decide whether they want to continue with the scheme or not.  However, if they decide to continue then the FTCs have to be made a permanent feature.

As of September 3, 2012, some states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala decided to continue with the FTC scheme.  However, some states such as Haryana and Chhattisgarh decided to discontinue it. Other states such as Delhi and Karnataka have decided to continue the FTC scheme only till 2013.[4]

Table 1: Number of Fast Track Courts and the pending cases in FTCs                     (As on March 31, 2011)

State No of FTC No of cases transferred until March 31, 2011 Pending cases
Arunachal Pradesh 3 4,162 2,502
Bihar` 179 2,39,278 80,173
Assam 20 72,191 16,380
West Bengal 109 1,46,083 32,180
Goa 5 5,096 1,079
Punjab 15 58,570 12,223
Jharkhand 38 1,10,027 22,238
Gujarat 61 5,37.636 1,03,340
Chattisgarh 25 9,4670 18,095
Meghalaya 3 1,031 188
Rajasthan 83 1,49,447 26,423
Himachal Pradesh 9 40,126 6,699
Karnataka 87 2,18,402 34,335
Andhra Pradesh 108 2,36,928 36,975
Nagaland 2 845 129
Kerala 38 1,09,160 13,793
Mizoram 3 18,68 233
Haryana 6 38,359 4,769
Madhya Pradesh 84 3,60,602 43,239
UP 153 4,64,775 53,117
Maharashtra 51 4,23,518 41,899
Tamil Nadu 49 4,11,957 40,621
Uttarakhand 20 98,797 9006
Orissa 35 66,199 5,758
Manipur 2 3,059 198
Tripura 3 5,812 221
Total 1192 3898598 6,05,813

Sources:  Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No.498, March 3, 2012; PRS



[1].  Rajya Sabha Starred Question no 231 dated December 10, 2012.

[2].  Brij Mohan Lal v Union of India (2005) 3 SCR 103.

[3].  Brij Mohan Lal v Union of India (2012) 6 SCC 502.

[4].  Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question no 2388 dated September 3, 2012.