Big backlog, HC judges should take turns to go on leave: House panel


Calling court vacations a “colonial legacy,” a parliamentary panel has recommended that High Court judges take turns to go on vacation to tackle mounting pendency of cases.

Big backlog, HC judges should take turns to go on leave: House panel

“For reducing pendency, there is a need to have a multi-pronged strategy. However, at the same time, it is an undeniable fact that vacations in the judiciary are a ‘colonial legacy’ and … entire court going on vacation en masse causes deep inconvenience to the litigants,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice stated in its 133rd report.

Big backlog, HC judges should take turns to go on leave: House panel

The panel, headed by BJP MP Sushil Modi, also endorsed a suggestion in the past by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha on court vacations. It said “instead of all the judges going on vacation, all at one time, individual judges should take their leave at different times through the year so that the courts are constantly open and there are always benches present to hear cases”, and this “should be considered by the Judiciary”.

Big backlog, HC judges should take turns to go on leave: House panel

“The demand for doing away with vacations in the Courts emanates primarily due to two factors, one is the huge pendency of cases in our courts, and the other is the inconvenience faced by the litigants during the vacations of the courts. A common man holds a perception that despite having such (a) huge pendency of cases, their judges go on long vacations. Further, during the vacations, the litigants have to suffer a lot despite having a handful of vacation courts/benches,” the report stated.

It records that the government batted for changes in the court vacation schedule. The Department of Law and Justice said,

“Vacations of Supreme Court and High Courts need to be relooked in a holistic way vis-a-vis the present practice in the higher courts of other countries as well as other constitutional institutions in the country and also in the context of existing huge pendency of arrears of cases and increased volume of fresh cases being instituted on regular basis.”

The government had earlier brought up the issue of court vacations. On December 15, 2022, then Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had in Parliament criticised the judiciary for taking long vacations even as pending cases rose to record levels every year. A day later, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud announced that no vacation benches would sit during the Supreme Court’s winter vacation.

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It is learnt that the government had requested High Courts to fix the period of vacations to ensure that courts function for at least 222 working days. But the panel found that on average, High Courts functioned for 210 days.

Courts usually take a 7-week summer break and two-week winter break. Despite the vacations, the Supreme Court has more working days compared to the highest courts in other countries. For instance, the US Supreme Court sits for 79 days with no oral arguments scheduled for a few months in between.

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In 2009, the Law Commission, in its 230th report on ‘Reforms in the Judiciary – Some suggestions’, had suggested that court vacation be cut down by 10-15 days across all levels of judiciary to help deal with pending cases.

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