Mumbai: Expectation of the litigant is legitimate but there is a need to address the issue of shortage of judges, observed the Bombay high court (HC) Tuesday while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the practice of courts taking long vacations which affect filing and hearing of cases during such time.
A bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and SG Dige on Tuesday issued notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI) on the PIL filed by Sabina Lakdawala, widow of builder Yusuf Lakdawala.
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‘Expectation legitimate..but what can we do?’
“From where do you get judges to sit in constituted benches? Expectation of the litigant is legitimate and we understand, and the predicament too, but what can we do,” remarked justice Gangapurwala.
Mathews Nedumpara, Lakdawala’s advocate, argued that the issues of setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) should be considered for appointment of judges. The NJAC would then appoint judges and such a situation (shortage of judges) would not arise, he said.
The bench pointed out that even the apex court was facing the issue of non-listing of cases. The judges were referring to a recent instance when the SC issued notice to its registry seeking an explanation as to why a matter was not listed for a year, though it was ready for hearing.
The petitioner contended that she was not against the judges taking holidays but members of the judiciary should not take leave at the same time so that the courts remain functional throughout the year. Her advocate pointed out that she is aggrieved since her matter was not being listed.
To this Justice Gangapurwala asked the advocate to separately argue on the issue (of non-listing of Lakdawala’s case) and point out how many times urgent relief was not granted (to Lakdawala).
The advocate then said that the PIL was on the larger issue regarding access to justice and appreciated the fact that the bench (headed by Justice Gangapurwala) was sitting beyond court working hours every day just to ensure maximum litigants can be heard.
Justice Gangapurwala, however, remarked: “Imagine if this is a school. What if the Maths teacher takes leave in January, the Science teacher takes leave in February, some other teacher takes in some other month, how will the school function?”
NJAC was struck down by SC in 2015
NJAC was a proposed body which would have been responsible for the recruitment, appointment and transfer of judicial officers, legal officers and legal employees under the government of India and in all state governments of India. However, in October 2015, NJAC was struck down by a five bench judge of the Supreme Court.
At present, the judges to the high courts and SC are appointed by a Collegium system headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Collegium suggests the names of judges, which are then approved / rejected by the Government of India.