Gogoi to Modi: Increase the Number of Judges

Justice Ranjan Gogoi Chief Justice of India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. Photo courtesy: Rashtrapati Bhavan
Justice Ranjan Gogoi Chief Justice of India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. Photo courtesy: Rashtrapati Bhavan

In his letters written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi has sought to increase the number of judges in the top court so that the issue of pendency of cases could be tackled. As one of the suggestions, Gogoi has asked to raise the retirement age of judges in order to increase their number in the court.

The CJI has also urged Modi to make tenure appointments of retired Supreme Court judges and High Court judges under Articles 128 and 224A of the Constitution respectively to clear backlog of cases pending for years. According to him, currently there is a pendency of 58,669 cases in the Supreme Court and the number of cases has been increasing rapidly.

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, recently expressed concern over pending cases in different courts of India. He said that our judges are overburdened by the sheer volume of cases. As a consequence, he observed, the Indian legal system is marked by long delays.

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The President said that there are many reasons for such delays. There are infrastructure gaps and considerable vacancies, particularly in subordinate courts. There is a culture of seeking adjournments as a norm rather than an exception.

The President said that new thinking is gradually taking place on frequent adjournments. He noted that the judiciary is making sincere efforts to curb this practice. He expressed confidence that the entire legal fraternity will resolve not to seek adjournments except in absolutely unavoidable circumstances.

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Due to inadequate strength of judges, according to the CJI, the required number of Constitution benches to decide important cases were not being formed.

In one of his letters, the CJI urged Modi to bring a constitutional amendment to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years. He observed that one of the reasons for huge pendency is the shortage of High Court judges. Gogoi wrote that 399 posts – or 37% of the sanctioned judge-strength – are vacant.

Today, there are nearly 33 million (3.3 crore) pending cases in different courts of India. Of these, 28 million (2.84 crore) cases are in the subordinate courts, 4.3 million (43 lakh) are in the High Courts, and over 58,000 in the Supreme Court.

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Rakesh Raman