New Delhi, Nov 30, 2022: As the executive and judiciary continue to clash over delay in appointment of judges selected via the collegium system, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a PIL seeking doubling the sanctioned strength of judges in all courts in order to take care of the huge pendency of cases. The court held that filling up of existing vacancies is a major challenge in itself.
A bench headed by CJI D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha said, “Merely adding to the number of judges is not a panacea for pendency. We need good judges.”
The plea was filed by petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay following which the CJI asked Upadhyay whether he had ever paid a visit to the Bombay HC. “The judicial infrastructure there is saturated and there is no space even to add one more judge to the existing strength. What is the purpose of appointing more judges without adequate infrastructure?” he asked.
The CJI further stated that when he was Allahabad HC chief justice, the then law minister had suggested increasing the sanctioned strength of 160 judges by 20%. “I objected to it and said there are 60 vacant posts and we’re finding it difficult to fill them up. Where do we get good judges? Have you asked good lawyers why they refuse to become judges,” he said.
The total number of cases pending in the supreme court is 69,781; 59.6 lakh in high courts and 4.3 crore in district courts. The sanctioned strength of judges in the SC is 34, including the CJI (seven vacancies), 1,108 (336 vacancies) in HCs. The trial courts have a sanctioned strength of 24,827 (6,604 vacancies).
As of November 1, almost five crore cases are pending in India’s three-tier justice delivery system.
When petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay gave an example of the healthy judge-population ratio in US and UK, the CJI held that the Supreme Courts of US and UK decide which 100-150 cases they would hear every year. “If we apply the same kind of brake, then we can also have no pendency. But we have our own system where even small causes can be litigated up to the SC in addition to all kinds of PILs which take up considerable judicial time and burden the judges,” he added.
Finding the bench to be reluctant, Upadhyay withdrew the PIL promising to file a more profoundly researched petition.