The Persistent Illusion of Judge-Strength

It is not always affordable to approach a Court of Law. Even if approached, it may be years before a final decision. Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2012) 2 SCC 688 had a simple answer: “Pendency is merely a localized problem, in the sense that it affects some High Courts far more than others.Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of U.P., (2017) 3 SCC 658 added a little more complexity: “In 1958, The 14th Report of the Law Commission of India on the Reform of Judicial Administration dealt with the issue of delay and arrears and identified inadequate Judge-Strength as the ‘root cause’ of the problem. This perspective has been reiterated several times.” Krishnakant Tamrakar v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 2018 SC 3635 had us note, again: “There can be no dispute that access to speedy justice is part of fundamental right. Law Commission in its 245th Report [July, 2014] noted, the system was unable to deliver timely justice because of huge backlog for which the Judge-Strength was inadequate.” It is said, a Committee of Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court has been constituted to explore the issue [Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, (2017) 14 SCC 450].  But, the situation has only worsened over the years, as evidenced through piling pendency across all Courts [Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd., (2020) 6 SCC 1]. All India Judges Association v. Union of India, 2002 (3) SCALE 291 was correct: “We feel it is our constitutional obligation to ensure that the backlog of the cases is decreased and efforts are made to increase the disposal of cases…. by directing increase, in the first instance, in the Judge-Strength.All India Judges Association v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1022 of 1989 is still pending before SC and was last heard on 22.09.2020.

The question: “Would the mere increase in the number of Judges be an answer to the problem of undue delay in disposal of cases and to what extent would such increase be feasible?”, has been Referred to a Larger Bench in V. Vasanthakumar v. H.C. Bhatia, (2016) 7 SCC 686. V. Vasanthakumar vs. H.C. Bhatia, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 36 of 2016 is still pending before SC and was last heard on 13.07.2016. November, 2020: The conclusion remains, it is not always affordable to approach a Court of Law. Even if approached, it may be years before a final decision. If this was understood, concentration would be on excellence and not on production of words in vain. Unfortunately, that reality is yet to shine. Thus, please read the above carefully!

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