Friday, Oct 31, 2003
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By J. Venkatesan
Announcing this at a press conference here today, the Union Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, said the decision was taken after a review of the disposal of cases in each High Court.
Mr. Jaitley said he had written to the Chief Justices of all the High Courts on October 22 informing them about the increase and requesting them to forward the proposals for filling the existing as well as the proposed vacancies.
The Government had expressed concern over the continuing vacancies and conveyed to the Chief Justices that the vacancies hindered the administration of the criminal justice system.
He said prior to the increase in the number of judges' posts, there were 163 vacancies and the Government had received proposals only for 63, recommended by the higher judiciary. Of the 33,68,621 cases pending before the High Courts, 21,64,182 were more than two years old and only by filling all the vacancies could the backlog be cleared.
The increase of judges' strength in major High Courts are as follows: Calcutta, Punjab and Haryana and Madhya Pradesh (13); Patna (12); Kerala and Orissa (11), Madras (5). No increase had been proposed for Allahabad, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Karnataka and a few other HCs. Asked as to why bigger High Courts at Allahabad and Bombay were not getting additional judges, Mr. Jaitley said additional judges were appointed on the basis of the disposal rate and the number of pending cases.
Mr. Jaitley said if the average rate of disposal of cases in a particular High Court was below even the national average of 1976, then instead of increasing the strength the High Court concerned was required to take steps for improving the rate of disposal of cases.
The national average of disposal of cases per judge per year in major High Courts are: Kerala, 3,103; Madras, 2,979; Calcutta, 2,919; Punjab and Haryana, 2,900; Karnataka 2,817 and Andhra Pradesh, 2,625. In Delhi, it is below the national average. ``The strength of Allahabad, Bombay and Madras High Courts will be increased by conversion of posts of additional judges into permanent ones,'' he said. The proposed Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had also been taken into consideration while increasing the strength of judges in the Madras High Court.
Mr. Jaitley said the 1,129 fast-track courts that had become functional out of 1,401 notified had so far disposed of over four lakh sessions cases pending for years out of the total 5.22 lakh cases transferred to them.
The Minister lauded the excellent performance of the fast-track courts in Tamil Nadu for exceeding the national average of 14.5 cases disposal per court per month. In Tamil Nadu, the disposal rate was 51.14 cases per month and as a result, the workload had been reduced considerably and these courts were also taking up non-sessions cases. Mr. Jaitley said the Chief Justice of Madras High Court had requested the Centre to provide more funds for these courts, and the Government, as a reward for the commendable performance, would consider it favourably.
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