Voicing concern over the pendency of cases and vacancies of judges, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Sunday said the twin factors have made the judicial dispensation system extremely vulnerable.
Inaugurating an interim building of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and laying the foundation stone for a permanent structure here, the CJI indicated the problem was imminently solvable and urged judges to take a solemn pledge to take the system forward.
He said the pendency figures of three crore cases were alarming but pointed out that 81 lakh cases were just about one year old. "When you file the case, by the time it gets ready it takes little time. Therefore, 81 lakh cases which are less than one year old really cannot be said to be pending," said the CJI.
Gogoi said 50 lakh cases out of the three crore were petty cases like breach of the Motor Vehicles Act, Weights and Measures Act and small violations of the excise law which call for the imposition of a token fine. "I appeal to the Chief Justices of the high courts to give a thought on how best we can deal with these 50 lakh cases."
He termed as 'worrisome and troublesome' the figure of 25 lakh cases which were 10 years old. "This is not a good sign. I think some serious reflection on this is necessary. There is no way to deal with this except for an utmost degree of commitment and devotion to see that these 25 lakh cases, which are black spots on the judiciary, are wiped out as quickly as possible."
The Chief Justice said there were 392 vacancies of high court judges but the high courts of the country had not made recommendations for 270 posts.
"There are 130 posts in the pipeline. Out of which, 100 are before the Supreme Court Collegium and 14 before the Union Government. Let us not blame anybody. Recommendations for 270 posts are yet to be made by the high courts. I appeal to the Chief Justices of the high courts to make these recommendations," said Gogoi, adding that the 100 pending posts before the Supreme Court would be cleared in the next two to three weeks.
He pointed out that recently the Supreme Court took up the job of filling up 5,000 vacancies in the district judiciary. He was optimistic that these 5,000 vacancies in the cadres of district judges and subordinate judges will be filled very soon. "May be 75 per cent of these 5,000 vacancies will be filled up by the end of 2019."
The CJI said he always believed that dispensation of justice and morality travel together. "Whether it is a criminal court punishing somebody for a crime committed or a civil court dealing with property dispute, it is ultimately the morals, the principles of morality that are upheld which are entwined with law.
"As you go higher to the constitutional courts, the situation and the picture become very complex. How a state should treat its citizens, whether the state is discriminating or whether the state is being unfair, whether a particular legislation is invalid -- all these have to be tested on the touchstone of moral principles. Here is the danger. As judges we do not permit our individual notions to come and affect our judgment or our decision making process," Gogoi said.
He said he believed that principles of constitutional morality are a better, safer and more realistic test. "As judges we never do something that we have to justify. The very thought of a judge justifying a decision is wrong. We do what is right and what we think is right, guided by principles of constitutional morality."
Gogoi said the members of the bar had a bigger role to play in shaping up and in making the system dynamic than what has ever been thought. He believed that their role goes beyond the court room.
"Evolving new ideas of judicial management, evolving new practices of court management, of case management can only happen if the bar is realistic," he said while appealing to the members of the bar to reflect and cooperate in making the system dynamic.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Supreme Court judges Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice R. Subhash Reddy, acting Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court Justice C. Praveen Kumar, Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court Justice T.B. Radhakrishnan, judges of the High Court and senior officials attended the ceremony.