Case pendency: CJI for innovative steps, higher retirement age for judges proposed

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New Delhi : Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Friday called for innovative steps and multi-pronged strategy to wage a war against pendency of over three crore cases largely in the lower judiciary and the High Courts while a SC judge proposed raising the retirement age of judges in the higher courts.

Calling for waging a war which he said was not "physical" but against the "mind-set", Chief Justice Misra said there has to be a team efforts coupled with a plan and strategy to directly attack the cases by bunching them together and other innovative means.

In his inaugural address at two day conference on 'National Initiative to Reduce Pendency and Delay in Judicial System', he said that a number of cases involving land acquisition can be decided by adjudicating a notification issued in a particular year that is at the root of many cases.

Taking a dig at lawyers seeking adjournment even citing headache, the CJI said: "Adjournment is a disorder."

Pitching for the same retirement age for the Supreme Court and the High Court judges, Justice Kurian Joseph - one of the senior most judges of the top court and member of collegium for the appointment and transfer of judges - also said that government should not delay the appointment of judges.

In the case of High Court judges, the Central government should not take more than three months on acting on the recommendation of the collegiums and 15 days in the case of Supreme Court judges as most of them before begin elevated to the top court are already judges of the High Courts, he said.

"Don't make delays in the appointment of judges," Justice Kurian told the government, and also called for increasing the existing strength of the judges.

In the allocation of the cases to the benches in the High Courts, Justice Joseph said that since Chief Justice of the High Courts are from outside the state, they should consult other senior judges of the High Court while allocating the cases - an issue on which Justice Joseph along with Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice J. Chelameswar (since retired) had an issue with Chief Justice Misra.

Justice Gogoi - the senior most top court judge after Chief Justice Misra - said at times questions are asked as if the justice delivery system "run its course". "Has it become inserviceable. Does it cater the classes and not the masses?"

Referring to 120th and 245th Law Commission reports of 1989 and 2014 respectively on the issue, he said: "We seemed to have moved only a little. Not only because they (figures of pendency) are stunning but they refuse to budge."

Urging that we have to start on a positive note, Justice Gogoi said what needs to be identified is how many pending cases raise an alive issue.

He said that many of the pending cases are "non-existent or of no consequence".

Advocating that "what is pragmatic should be done", Justice Gogoi said: "Once we have figures (of pending cases raising alive issues), then it would be possible to deal then in a "systematic and chronological order".

Justice Gogoi pitched for using artificial intelligence in the management of the court and assured that it would produce spectacular results.

Saying that the focus of reducing the pendency of cases should be on the lower courts, Justice Lokur said that there are 2.75 crore cases pending at the lower echelon of the judiciary at district level and stressing on the need for concentrating at this level to deal with the problem of pendency.

He also pointed to the nearly 30 per cent or more vacancies in the lower judiciary and lack of infrastructure. He said that more than 200 lower courts were functioning from dilapidated buildings and 323 courts building were on rent.

The conference has been organised by Supreme Court in collaboration with Indian Law Institute.