Out of the sanctioned number of 72 judges, working with only 39 judges, there are more than two lakh pending cases in the Calcutta High Court. On Saturday, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice announced the appointment of three additional judges to the Calcutta High Court, bringing the number to 42.
Lawyers say the number of judges needs to be increased as soon as possible to deal with the backlog as well as the newly filed petitions. A total of 2,34,539 cases are pending in the high court despite efforts by the judiciary to reduce the backlog.
The Calcutta High Court, which has an approved 72 judges, is working with only 39 judges, according to its website. After three newly-appointed judges are sworn in, the number will increase to 42, but will still be less than the authorized capacity by 30 or 41.66 percent.
Former Supreme Court Justice (retd) Ashok Ganguly has said that the number of judges should be immediately increased to at least the full strength of the high court and sub-divisional and district courts are facing similar problems.
Of the 2,34,539 cases pending till February 28, the number of civil cases stood at 1,97,184, while the number of pending criminal cases stood at 37,355. Although the High Court seat is in Calcutta, it has permanent circuit benches at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Jalpaiguri in North Bengal.
“Even with full strength, the number of judges is insufficient and so it is much more difficult to reduce the backlog if it is less than 40 per cent,” Ganguly said. He told PTI that the number of new cases before the courts is increasing as people have nowhere else to go to get justice.
“The number of cases is increasing despite the reduction in the power of judges; The government needs to expedite the appointment of new judges, ”he said.
Assuming that both the central and state governments need to do more to alleviate the situation, Ganguly said there were huge vacancies in the lower judiciary which needed to be filled.
According to the National Judicial Data Grid, a total of 26,64,284 cases are pending in various courts in West Bengal till May 14. Of these, 20,47,901 are criminal cases and 6,16,383 are civil cases. Ganguly said that the litigants were facing a lot of difficulties due to the situation due to lack of adequate number of judges and huge pending cases. He said lawyers should also make extra efforts to ensure that plaintiffs receive justice in a timely manner.
Arunav Ghosh, president of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association, said the inadequate strength of the bench had also created situations where judges did not always have jurisdiction over their specialization. The jurisdiction of a judge is the discretion of the Chief Justice which indicates that a judge will hear appeals on matters.
“Many of the recommendations of the High Court Collegium which have also been passed by the Supreme Court Collegium are pending before the Union Ministry of Law and Justice,” he said, adding that these need to be implemented expeditiously.
Claiming that there are more than 200 vacancies in the High Court across the country, Ghosh called for immediate filling of these vacancies for speedy disposal of cases. Stressing the need to increase the number of employees in the lower judiciary, he called for a more concerted effort by all stakeholders to expedite the delivery of justice.
A joint meeting of the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of the High Court was held on April 30 in New Delhi to discuss the creation of a framework for easy and convenient administration of justice.