The monsoon session of Parliament which started last week is special in that it is the first full session of Parliament since COVID hit the country last year. On the 1st day of the monsoon session of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his hope for a fruitful session of Parliament.
Many important issues were raised last week in parliament and in this article we have tried to compile the responses filed by the Union Law Ministry before the Loksabha regarding the status of judicial vacancy, the representation of women in the Indian judicial system, the Women’s Reservation Bill, Lakswadeep, etc.
Judicial vacancy status (High Courts and Supreme Court)
On Wednesdays, members of Lok Sabha Benny Behanan and Haji Fazlur Rehman asked the Minister of Justice Kiren Rijju on the current state of court vacations across the country.
Information was also requested regarding the representation of women and minority communities in the judiciary. The Minister was further questioned whether a recruitment process had been undertaken to stock up on the affected vaccines.
Minister Rijju’s response in this regard reflects the dire state of judicial vacancies in the country. The data provided also revealed the low representation of women in the Indian judiciary, which has always been a lingering concern.
A total of 454 posts of High Court judges are vacant in the 25 High Courts across the country against the sanctioned strength of 1098 judges. the Supreme Court alone has 8 vacancies against the sanctioned force of 34 judges.
Additionally, no appointments have been made to the Supreme Court since 2020. When Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Naveen Sinha retire next month, two more positions are expected to arise.
Currently, the Supreme Court has only one female judge, namely Justice Indira Banerjee, out of the existing 27 judges.. The High Courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura and Uttarakhand have no female representation whereas the High Courts of Gauhati, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Ladakh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan and Sikkim have no 1 female judge respectively.
So out of 567 active judges in the High Courts of the land, there are only 77 female judges.
No judicial appointment were made in the High Courts of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gauhati, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Patna, Sikkim and Uttarakhand since 2020.
In April 2021, the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking direction to consider deserving women lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court and High Courts for appointment as as judges in the High Courts. The application had been filed in intervention in the case M/s PLR Projects Pvt Ltd v Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd during which the Supreme Court was considering the issue of vacancies for High Court judges.
The statistics mentioned in the request revealed how extremely low the representation of women in the higher judiciary is. To date, only 8 female judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court. There has never been a female Chief Justice in India. Out of 25 High Courts in the country, only one High Court has a female Chief Justice – Chief Justice Hima Kohli of the Telangana High Court. Only 73 of the 661 High Court judges are women, ie about 11.04% of the judges are women.
A Supreme Court bench made up of former Chief Justice of India SA Bobde had remarked earlier this year that the High Courts across the country were in a “state of crisis” due to this increase in vacancies. Accordingly, the Court had ordered the Center to notify the appointments within 3-4 weeks after the Collegium reiterated its recommendations.
About the representation of minority communities in the judiciary, the minister further informed that no data by class/category is kept by the central government. Indeed, appointments of Supreme Court and High Court judges are made in accordance with Articles 124, 217 and 224 of the Constitution of India, which do not provide for such reservations.
“However, the government has requested the presidents of high courts that when sending proposals for the appointment of judges, due consideration should be given to suitable candidates from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other disadvantaged classes, minorities and women in order to ensure social diversity in the appointment. high court judges“, added the minister.
Judicial Vacancy Status (Lower Courts)
In response to the question raised by MP Benny Behnan regarding the vacancy and shortage of judges in the lower judiciary, the Department of Justice said:
“The Department of Justice writes from time to time to the Registrars General of all high courts to expedite the filling of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary mandated by the Malik Mazhar case.”
It was further added that under Section 225 of the Constitution, administrative control over members of the district and subordinate judiciary in the states rests with the high courts concerned.
“In some states, the recruitment of magistrates is carried out by the relevant high courts while in some states, the recruitment process is undertaken by the high courts in consultation with the state civil service commissions…The government of the Union has no role under the Constitution in the selection and appointment of judicial officers in the district/subordinate judicial system,” it was submitted.
As of July 22, 2021, the total number of vacancies for judicial officers (pan-India) is 5132.
Total sanctioned workforce – 24368
Total work force – 19326
– Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) July 28, 2021
In one of its responses, the Union Law Ministry said that there was no proposal from the Bar Council of India to withdraw the Indian Bar Examination (AIBE), the purpose of which is to establish a minimum standard for the practice of law in India and access ability to practice law in India of lawyers with basic knowledge of law and analytical ability.
This statement came in response to a question from Kerala MP Hibi Eden.
Interestingly, while the ministry said that this exam was meant to check a lawyer’s ability to use various substantive and procedural laws with bare books and deeds, the Bar Council of India had recently ruled that All India Bar Examination-XVI (AIBE-XVI) from then on, no books, notes or study materials will be allowed in the exam room.
However, contestants would be allowed to wear nude acts without notes.
Women’s Representation Bill
In response to DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi’s question whether the government is proposing to introduce the Women’s Representation Bill to provide 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures, the Ministry of Justice said:
“Gender justice is an important government commitment. The issue at hand must be carefully considered on the basis of a consensus among all political parties before a bill to amend the Constitution is presented to Parliament.“
It is important to note that this response is verbatim the same as the government response given two years ago in 2019, when asked this same question.
A bill in this regard has been introduced for the first time in Parliament in 1996 and then again in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2008. The last version of the bill was passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010. However, as the Lok Sabha did not vote, the bill is become obsolete. .
“The government is promoting the alternative dispute resolution system to complement the traditional court system”
The government has told the Loksabha that it is promoting an alternative dispute resolution system as a it is time-limited, simpler, more convenient and less costly than the traditional court system.
The government has further clarified that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms do not prescribe that persons lacking legal knowledge and training cannot be appointed chairman of the meeting.
“This is an informal process and the appointment of the chairperson is done according to the principle of party autonomy.“, added the Court.
The government was responding to various questions posed by Socialist Revolutionary Party MP NK Premachandran.
No submissions received from Lakshadweep admin. To transfer jurisdiction from Kerala HC to Karnataka HC
The central government also clarified in Parliament that it had not received any proposal from the Lakshadweep administration to transfer its legal jurisdiction from the Kerala High Court to the Karnataka High Court.
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju briefed him by answering some questions posed by Lok Sabha MPs namely Anto Antony, Rajmohan Unnithan and Hibi Eden.
Cases pending in various courts in Uttar Pradesh:
Allahabad High Court – 5,68,987 (Civil) and 4,51,406 (Criminal)
Subordinate courts – 18,41,155 (Civil) and 73,94,155 (Criminal)
Fast-track courts – 5,43,081
Cases pending before various courts of #UttarPradesh: Ministry of Justice response to Loksabha today 👇
👉 Subordinate Courts – 18,41,155 (Civil) and 73,94,155 (Criminal)
The ministry also informed the Loksabha that between March 2020 and June 2021, district courts heard a total of 74,15,989 cases using the digital system. The status of settling cases by digital and physical hearing, however, is not maintained separately. During the same period, a total of 97,21,491 cases were decided in all states/UTs by digital and physical hearing.