New Delhi: In letters to the prime minister, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has asked that the strength of the Supreme Court be increased and the retiring age of high court judges be hiked from 62 to 65. These steps, he said, would tackle the huge backlog of more than 43 lakh cases in the apex court and high court.
According to a Times of India report, the CJI has written three letters to the prime minister. In the third letter, he has sought the revival of a practice that would allow retired SC and HC judges to be assigned cases that have been pending for years. These practices are permissible under Articles 128 and 224A of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court attained its full strength of 31 only in late May, for the first time since 2008. That year, the parliament hiked the apex court’s strength from 26 to 31. Chief Justice Gogoi said that 58,669 cases are pending before the Supreme Court, and the number is rising due to a higher rate of fresh cases being filed. He informed the PM that 26 cases have been pending for 25 years, 100 cases for 20 years, 593 cases for 15 years and 4,977 cases for ten years, the TOI report says.
Chief Justice Gogoi said to expedite disposal of cases, the strength of the Supreme Court should be increased. He said since the last time the strength of the apex court was hiked, pending cases have increased from 41,078 to 58,669.
The inadequate judge strength is also preventing him from constituting five-judge constitution benches to adjudicate “cases involving substantial questions of law or interpretation of constitutional provisions,” the Chief Justice is learnt to have stated.
“I request you to kindly consider, on top priority, to augment the judge-strength in the SC appropriately so that it can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public,” he wrote to Narendra Modi, according to TOI.
Retirement age of high court judges
In the second letter, Chief Justice Gogoi asked the prime minister to increase the age of retirement for high court judges from 62 to 65. With more than 43 lakh cases pending in the 24 high courts, this would help clear pending cases, he said. “One of the prime reasons why we are not able to contain the ever-growing pendency is shortage of HC judges. At present, 399 posts, or 37% of sanctioned judge-strength, are vacant,” he said.
While efforts are being made to fill the vacancies, Chief Justice Gogoi said despite the best efforts of all stake holders, “it has not been possible to appoint judges to bring the working judge-strength anywhere close to the sanctioned judge strength”.
Saying that a judge takes time to evolve, the chief justice added that by the time a judge is in a position to put “innovative thoughts based on rich experience to practice”, they are close to retirement.
Chief Justice Gogoi reminded Modi that the hike has been recommended by several parliamentary committees, urging him to bring in legislation that would allow it.