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150 more high court judges to be appointed
Sujit Chatterjee in New Delhi | June 14, 2006 11:06 IST
Faced with a huge backlog of cases in the courts, the Centre said on Wednesday that it would appoint 150 more judges in the high courts, fund the computerisation of lower courts and fill up judicial vacancies at all levels.
It has also extended the tenure of fast-track courts, financed by it, by another five years and suggested that the judiciary club cases involving similar questions of law for faster disposal.
"We have a definite programme to deal with arrears of cases, improving the judicial infrastructure through central funding of computerisation of subordinate courts across the country and filling up vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the lower courts," Law Minister H R Bhardwaj told PTI.
While over 35,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court till this March, the backlog in 21 high courts till December 2005 was over 35 lakhs and in the subordinate courts, more than 2.5 crore.
There are over 2,800 judicial vacancies.
With the new multi-pronged strategy, Bhardwaj said the strength of the Supreme Court and the high courts was being reviewed.
"After filling up seven existing vacancies in high courts," the minister said, "the government has decided to create 150 posts of additional judges in the high courts to expedite disposal of pending cases."
Bhardwaj said when the United Progressive Alliance government came to office in May 2004, it had 'inherited' from the National Democratic Alliance regime 307 vacancies in the high courts, of which 220 have been filled up.
While the approved strength of judges is 26, the Supreme Court has 22 judges at present. Bhardwaj has said the posts will be filled up soon in consultation with Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal.
In the high courts, while the approved strength is 726 judges, the number of posts vacant is 87.
In the district and subordinate courts, the vacancies touch 2,730 against the sanctioned posts of 14,412 judges.
Stating that fast track courts have cleared 10 lakh out of 19 lakh cases placed before them, Bhardwaj said this was the reason for the extension of their tenure.
The decision to fully fund computerisation of lower courts was in keeping with the government's plan to modernise judicial infrastructure, Bhardwaj said. "We will have one of the most advanced judicial infrastructures once all our courts are linked through computers," he added.
He also said the judiciary is making a concerted effort to club cases having similar points of law so that a single court could deal with those pending before different benches.
"This way, a court may deal with, as an example, over 100 cases of a similar nature in one go," he said.
Citing the example of Karnataka, Bhardwaj said the state is 'revolutionising' the judicial infrstructure through computerisation and technical upgradation methods.
Stating that the government's efforts for the moment are focussing more on the lower judiciary, Bhardwaj said his ministry would be interested in establishing 'grassroot courts in rural areas' but this is subject to availability of funds.
"By and large, all efforts are to meet targets with regard to modernisation of the judicial infrstructure," he said.