The Bombay High Court is facing an acute shortage of judges because appointments are not made in a hurry. As in history, the court’s current strength is closer to half that approved with 11 justices retiring this year and two senior justices recommended for promotion as presidents of other supreme courts.
According to the National Judicial Data Network (NJDG), there are 5.88 cases pending before the Bombay High Court, of which 1.14 thousand are new cases filed in the last year, and there are more than 16,000 criminal cases pending for more than 10 years.
While the High Court in February recommended the names of ten lawyers as judges in Bombay HC, the central government has yet to acquit them, keeping the number of judges below 60, with nearly 40 per cent of positions vacant.
On 3 June, the Central Government notified the appointment of two Judicial Officers as additional judges at HC in Bombay. While the Collegium recommended to the Higher Committee that their names be brought to the Health Care Center in September last year, the Center returned their files, prompting the Collegium to repeat its recommendation in February of this year.
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The Bombay Board of Directors, with headquarters in Mumbai and seats in Aurangabad, Nagpur and Goa, has 57 judges, including 48 permanent and nine additional judges, although its recognized strength is 94, which is the second largest after Allahabad HC. However, due to retirement and upcoming hikes, the number will drop even more.
On June 6, Chief Justice Dipankar Datta stepped down from hearing an attorney in the Supreme Court seeking a permanent mechanism to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court. The resignation was requested because the Chief Justice, besides being the administrative head of the Supreme Court, is also the head of the College, the body of justices that recommends the appointment of Supreme Court justices to the bench of the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, two days before the end of her tenure, Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala, an additional Supreme Court justice who was refused promotion as a permanent judge, resigned in February of this year.
On June 1, the central government issued an order appointing Justice Dheeraj Singh Thakur of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court as a judge of the Bombay High Court. Judge Thakur was sworn in as a judge in Bombay HC on 10 June.
Eleven judges lined up for retirement when the year began. If no new appointments are made, the number of judges could be reduced by four, including Justice Sadhana Jadhav (who retired on June 13), having already retired, three more retiring within two months and others to follow later this year.
The bench of the Supreme Court recommended the names of two Senior Justices, Justice SS Shendi and Justice A. Both are awaiting notification of appointment by the union’s Ministry of Law and Justice.
Earlier this year, Chief Justice Dipankar Datta on two separate occasions raised concerns about judges’ fatigue.
On March 2, CJ Datta refused to urgently hear the PIL due to the difficulty of accommodating a lot, and said, “Please understand the predicament of the podium. How many judges do we have now out of 94? Less than 60. Go back in history and find out if This Supreme Court had very few judges or not.”
Later that month, Attorney General Ashutosh Compakoni suggested that the cases against the lawmakers, where the suspension was granted, be included for hearing before the appropriate bodies of the Supreme Court. However, CJ Datta refused the request and replied, “Where are the judges? Every month, every two weeks, we lose one of our colleagues (due to retirement)…”
Review meetings say, “Ask the judges to sit on the Sabbath.” They are already overburdened, and they have to sit until 7-8pm every day and on Saturdays. I cannot put any more burden on my brother and sister judges.”
He added that the case could be considered if sufficient force was achieved.
“I do not recall that the Bombay High Court ever attained sanctioning power, but nearly 50 per cent of its power is severely deficient. A senior advocate, who has been working before the Bombay High Court for more than three decades, said, “The central government should on Urgently clear the pending recommendations issued by the Collegium to fill the vacancies.”
Another prominent lawyer, Nitin Thacker, President of the Bombay Bar Association (BBA), the oldest association of practicing lawyers in the Bombay High Court said, “By not appointing judges, the government is depriving ordinary people of justice. Delayed justice is denial of justice. Names of recommended judges It has been lying to the government for several months. There are ordinary people, including farmers and villagers, seeking relief, including strengthening the compensation granted in land tenure for government projects. The central government should clear the pending recommendations of the Collegium to fill vacancies and the Collegium of the Supreme Committee should address more urgent appointments.
At the urging of the platform led by CJ Datta since last year, state and central governments have taken steps to fill key positions in various courts and commissions.
Last month, following an alert by the Human Rights Commission in the Criminal Code Act submitted by the Parents’ Assembly, the Maharashtra State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) began operations two years later as the government confirmed the appointments of the president and members.
“Who brings officers to the courts? Look at the plight of litigants. The situation in the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT) is just like DRAT,” CG Data said. “The law provides a remedy (to go to the courts) and the remedy is futile because of you (the Centre). Why do these courts remain (at all).”
In February, CJ Datta asserted that he “cannot allow justice to become a victim” and warned the Federal Ministry of Finance that if it failed to inform the court of the appointment of the Chief Debt Recovery Court of Appeal (DRAT), Mumbai, the Supreme Court may summon the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance . Within a few days, the central government authorized the appointments of the heads of five DRATs in the country.
In December last year, the Maharashtra government submitted to the High Court that it had cleared the appointments of a chairperson and two members of the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission. This came after the CJ Datta Board led by CJ Datta noted that it was “disappointing” that the MSHRC was a “expired body”, and the government withdrew to delay filling vacancies and direct the same to be filled urgently to ensure functional to its optimum capacity.