(Repeating after dropping extra words in para 12) Allahabad, Apr 2 (PTI) Government is committed to complete independence of the judiciary, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today said.
He urged lawyers to volunteer to help the poor get access to justice and highlighted the steps being taken by the Centre to reduce pendency, including minimising litigation by the State and meeting the long-standing demand of filling up vacant posts of judges.
“The Prime Minister has said that government is committed to independence of the judiciary and that it should be complete,” Prasad said at the closing ceremony of the Allahabad High Court’s sesquicentennial celebrations.
He said the government is committed to reducing pendency of cases, an issue highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Chief Justice of India J S Khehar at the event.
“As a step in this direction we are setting up sahayata kendras (facilitation centres) that will be devoted to speedy disposal of such cases as may have been pending for 10 years or more.
“A pilot project for legal aid was being launched for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” the minister said.
Prasad exhorted those involved in the legal profession to help the government in achieving its objectives by devoting their time and energy in cases “that may be pro bono and may not bring publicity”.
The Minister said that the process is on for finalising a national litigation policy.
“Already, I have at the direction of the Prime Minister written to chief ministers of states and my colleagues in the Union Council of Ministers to ensure that the number of cases filed by the government is reduced as far as possible.
“There has been a long-standing demand for filling up of vacant posts of judges. That too will be taken care of,” Prasad said.
The Union Minister was speaking in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, among others.
There are nearly 5,000 vacancies in the subordinate judiciary. There are as many as 2.7 crore cases pending in subordinate courts, and 38.7 lakh cases pending in the high courts.
While the appointments in the higher judicary have been delayed over the tussle between the Centre and the Supreme Court collegium over Memorandum of Procedure, the Centre has often faulted the judiciary over the vacancies in lower courts.
However, the Supreme Court collegium last month finalised the MoP for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary, ending a year-long face-off with the executive by agreeing to include the contentious clause of national security in selection of judges.
Hailing the contributions of advocates in the freedom struggle, the Minister said luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad had placed an ideal of “kaabil vakil, tyaagi neta” (competent lawyer, sacrificing leader) which all ought to follow.
Prasad also recalled landmark judgements passed by the Allahabad High Court, including the one whereby the election of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was declared illegal and another one way back in 1901 which held that a widow was entitled to receive maintenance.
“I was myself privileged to be a counsel in yet another landmark case – the Ayodhya title dispute.
“I do not wish to speak about this case much since an appeal challenging the High Court order is pending before the Supreme Court,” Prasad said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.