Underlining the importance of filling judicial vacancies to address pendency of cases, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said Saturday that the Supreme Court Collegium had recommended 106 names for judges and 9 for Chief Justices since May this year and the government had “so far” cleared names of 7 for judges and one for Chief Justice.
Addressing a gathering at the launch of the ‘Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign’ of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) – those present at the Vigyan Bhavan event included President Ram Nath Kovind and Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju — CJI Ramana said: “I expect that the government will clear the rest of the names very soon.”
He said Minister Rijiju has “informed the rest of the things are going to come in a short time, within one or two days”.
The CJI said “these appointments will take care of pendency to some extent” and “I seek the cooperation and support of the government to enable access to justice and to strengthen democracy”.
On May 20, the Collegium, headed by CJI Ramana, recommended the elevation of Justice Sanjay Yadav as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court. This was approved by the government following which he was administered the oath of office on June 13. Chief Justice Yadav, however, had a short tenure and retired on June 25.
On September 16, the Collegium recommended names for Chief Justices of 8 High Courts – Calcutta, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Allahabad, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh — but these are yet to be cleared.
As for judges, the Collegium had recommended names of judicial officers and advocates for elevation to the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh, Gauhati, Allahabad, Calcutta, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madras, Jharkhand, Patna, Gujarat, Orissa and Bombay.
According to the Department of Justice, a total of 420 vacancies in High Courts existed on May 1, 2021. As of October 1, there are 471 vacancies in the HCs.
Launching the awareness and outreach programme, President Kovind said the country has made substantial progress since Independence in realising its Constitutional goals, “but a lot of work remains to be done to reach the destinations identified by our founding fathers”.
Referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to lawyers to provide free legal aid to people, he called upon the legal fraternity and designated senior advocates in the Supreme Court and High Courts to follow this, and earmark a certain part of their time to provide pro bono services to people from the weaker sections.
The President said that “as a country, our aim is to graduate from ‘women development’ to ‘women-led development’,” and called for increasing the number of women in National Legal Services Institutions. This, he said, “is as important as reaching out to the largest possible number of women beneficiaries”.
He pointed out that presently there are about 11,000 women lawyers among over 47,000 advocates on the panel of lawyers enrolled with legal aid institutions at the district level and about 17,000 women Para–Legal Volunteers out of a total of nearly 44,000.
Supreme Court judge Justice D Y Chandrachud said the legal profession still continues to be a feudal profession and this needs to change.
“This is something that the Supreme Court Bar Association can persuade, at least some of the seniors, to democratise access to the legal profession, because the mainstream of our profession does not democratise access. We still continue to be a purely feudal profession which I believe needs to change,” Justice Chandrachud said, touching on how lawyers beginning their careers prefer to join law firms than start legal practice when they do not have connections to gain entry to lawyers’ chambers.
Justice U U Lalit, Supreme Court judge and NALSA Executive Chairman, and Justice A M Khanwilkar also spoke on the occasion.