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Plea in SC seeks direction to Centre, states to double number of judges in HCs, courts

New Delhi: A plea was filed on Monday in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre, states and Union Territories to take steps to double the number of judges in high courts and subordinate courts, and implement a judicial charter on disposal of cases in a three-year time period.

The total sanctioned posts of judges in the 25 high courts of the country is 1,079 and as per a latest report, 414 of the posts are vacant.

The PIL has been filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay and it has made all the high courts, the states, the Union Territories (UTs), the Union Home Ministry and the Law and Justice Ministry as parties.

The plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey said that there are almost five crore pending cases in the country from trial courts to the apex court, and their delayed disposal violate the citizens’ fundamental right to speedy justice.

“Deliberate and inordinate delay of a trial offends Article 21. Right to speedy justice is a fundamental right of every citizen, which cannot be trampled upon. It is an integral part of right to life and liberty and a procedure is void if it does not provide fair trial and speedy justice,” the plea said.

“A Judicial Charter to guarantee time-bound trial and justice is an important safe guard (i) to prevent undue oppressive incarceration prior to trial (ii) to minimise anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation, and (iii) to limit the possibilities that long delays will impair the ability of an accused to defend him,” it said.

The PIL, which might come up for hearing after the winter break, said the judicial charter of October 25, 2009, had provided for disposal of all cases, including those pending before a tehsildar and a SDM, within three years and had sought its implementation .

“It is in the interest of society that the trial concludes within three years and if the accused is guilty, he is duly punished. If the accused is not guilty, an early conclusion of trial is necessary to relieve him of the ordeal of trial and restore his dignity as soon as possible,” it said.

The plea, alternatively, urged the top court to direct the Centre and states to implement the recommendations of a Law Commission Report and take other apposite steps in order to break even and dispose of the backlog in a three-year time-frame.

It urged the court to pass directions to implement the Judicial Charter in all the courts to decide cases within three years and to break-even and dispose of the backlog by 2023.

The cause of action accrued on October 25, 2009, and continues when the Centre promised to reduce pendency of cases from 15 years to three years. But the Centre did nothing to implement the recommendations proposed by the Law Commission of India in its reports, it said.

“The Centre and states have deliberately neglected the importance of speedy justice. They have not provided required judicial infrastructure to clear huge backlog. The number of judges per million populations is less than 20. The figure stood at 19.78 in 2018, 17.48 in 2014 and 14.7 in 2002. These numbers show how the Indian judiciary is suffering due to low manpower,” it said.

To highlight the delay in deciding cases, the PIL referred to a property dispute which is pending before the consolidation officer of Jaunpur for 35 years, and cited that the victim got more than 400 dates but not the justice.

 

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