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NEW DELHI: Law commission chairman Justice B S Chauhan said selection of “unsuitable and incompetent lawyers” by governments to defend them in courts is one of the reasons for huge pendency in courts where substantial cases have state as a party. He claimed government counsels are appointed “for extraneous considerations” rather than merit and said indiscriminate and unwarranted adjournments are making the pendency situation worse.
While speaking to TOI on the issue of huge pendency in courts and how to improve it, he said that the short tenure of judges in high courts (HCs) also leads to delays and inefficiencies. “Some district judges are elevated to the HCs after their retirement and get less than a year to serve,” he explained.
As a solution, Justice Chauhan, also a former judge of the Supreme Court and the former chief justice of Orissa high court, said district judges should be elevated to HC early in their career rather than closer to retirement and must get a minimum of five years to serve the bench.
“Pendency of large number of cases has created an alarming situation,” Justice Chauhan said, expressing concern. There are more than 3.15 crore pending cases, including those in 24 high courts and the Supreme Court. The pendency in about 17,000 subordinate courts across the country is about 2.54 crore, about 10% of these cases are pending for more than 10 years.
Justice Chauhan said vacancies in the judiciary is an important factor as nearly one quarter of the sanctioned strength in the judiciary is always vacant, he said emphasising the need for elevation of more judges to HCs. Justice Chauhan said there have been instances of undeserving candidates being elevated overlooking the deserving ones.
And even those who are elevated have a very short tenure of less than a year. Such short tenure of judges hardly help in increasing efficiency of courts and in cutting down huge pendency, he explained.
“Some district judges are elevated to the HC after their retirement and have tenure of less than one year,” Justice Chauhan said. Striking lawyers are another problem as some of the district courts work for less than 50% of the required working days owing to this reason, despite the Supreme Court’s judgment that lawyers can’t go on strike.
The law commission chairman pointed out how deteriorating standards of legal education due to indiscriminate recognition to substandard law institutions are adding to the problem. “Enrolment of several thousand lawyers has been cancelled in recent past for want of valid law degrees as many have been found with law degrees from ghost universities/colleges,” headded.
He pointed out a recent news report on how a person not only joined but also completed 21 years of service in judiciary without a law degree.
Justice Chauhan said the judiciary and the government should work towards improving legal education as lack of a system of effective professional training to newcomers, especially in the field of constitutional litigation, is leading to inefficiencies in the justice delivery system.