New Delhi, Jun 4 (PTI) Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana took up the issue of vacancies in high courts in his first-ever virtual meeting with chief justices held for taking stock of functioning of courts during pandemic and said there was a need to expedite the process of filling-up of posts. The CJI, in his virtual interaction with the Chief Justices of HCs on June 1 to 2 on functioning of High Courts and subordinate judiciary in the country in the wake of pandemic, pinpointed the problems and termed the poor infrastructure and digital divide as “major stumbling block” in delivery of justice.
An official statement said that Justice Ramana mooted an idea of setting up of the National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation to build modern court complexes with permanent video conferencing facilities across the nation.
Justice Ramana's efforts on filling up of vacancies assume significance in view of recent news reports, quoting government sources, said that the authorities have been awaiting recommendations from the apex court's collegium to fill up slots.
The 25 high courts of the country have a combined sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges, but are functioning with 660, a shortfall of 420 judges, according to May 1 figures available on the website of the Department of Justice.
The CJI took this opportunity to “re-emphasise the need to expedite the process of filling-up of vacancies, particularly in the High Courts and this is a follow-up to the letter he had already written to CJs of High Courts in this regard in the first week of May, 2021 soon after he took over as the Chief Justice of India.” The statement said Justice Ramana took stock of the incumbent Bench strength and vacancy position in each of the High Courts during his interaction with Chief Justices.
The CJI, in the meeting, got a view from the CJs that “the digital divide is impacting the functioning of the judiciary and better connectivity and network in districts, particularly in rural and tribal areas, would go a long way in enhancing the efficiency of the subordinate judiciary.” He also took note of the concerns raised by the CJs of Bombay, Punjab and Haryana and Andhra Pradesh High Courts that his intervention would help in getting the impediments removed so as to enable them to augment infrastructure.
A few Chief Justices have also requested to get the functionaries of the Courts declared as frontline workers for the purpose of vaccination on priority, the statement said.
“Noting that poor infrastructure is proving to be a major stumbling block in delivery of justice, the CJI shared his vision for creation of National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation. “Under the aegis of NJIC, comprehensive, self-contained, all-inclusive and modern Court Complexes will be built across the country to augment judicial infrastructure, it is proposed,” it said.
With the lessons drawn from the pandemic, necessary permanent infrastructure for video conferencing in all the courts will also need to be integrated into proposed modern court buildings, the CJI said.
Justice Ramana said he wished to take forward the national plan for judicial infrastructure on priority, after incorporating the inputs received from all the stakeholders. Unless the infrastructure is strengthened it is unfair to expect the courts, particularly the lower courts, to do miracles in increasing the pace of justice delivery and both quality and quantity of justice delivery can be improved only when the support systems are strong enough to meet the challenges, the CJI observed.
At the outset, Justice Ramana condoled the loss of lives of many judges, advocates, judicial officers and staff due to the pandemic across the country and simultaneously, high courts for taking appropriate steps to reassure the judicial fraternity in these trying times.
He advised the CJs to factor in the prevailing conditions in their respective territories while deciding on further course of action.
Justice Ramana assured CJs of High Courts that their concerns on connectivity, vaccine supply and urgent issues of infrastructure that are pending will be taken up by the Supreme Court Registry with the Central Government, the apex court said in its statement.
The CJI assured full cooperation from the Supreme Court and proposed to interact with the CJs more frequently so that he has the benefit of updates and feedback from across the country on matters concerning functioning of the courts. PTI SJK RKS RKS