Functioning with only 39 judges out of a sanctioned strength of 72 judges, the Calcutta High Court is saddled with more than two lakh pending cases.
The Union Law and Justice Ministry on Saturday announced the appointment of three more additional judges to the Calcutta High Court, which will take the number to 42.
Legal luminaries say that the number of judges needs to be increased further as soon as possible to deal with the backlog as well as newly filed petitions.
A total of 2,34,539 cases are pending before the High Court despite efforts by the judiciary to reduce the backlog.
The Calcutta High Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 72 judges, is functioning with only 39 judges, according to data provided on its website.
After the three newly-appointed judges take oath, the number will increase to 42, but will still remain short of the sanctioned strength by 30 or 41.66%
Former Supreme Court judge Justice (retd) Ashok Ganguly said that the number of judges should be increased immediately to at least the full strength of the High Court, and the sub-divisional and district courts, which are also facing similar issues.
Of the 2,34,539 cases pending as on February 28 according to the data, civil cases form the lion’s share at 1,97,184, while the number of criminal cases awaiting disposal stand at 37,355 on that date.
While the seat of the High Court is in Kolkata, it has permanent circuit benches at Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and at Jalpaiguri in north Bengal.
“Even with full strength, the number of judges is inadequate and so with over 40% less it is far more difficult to reduce the backlog,” Mr. Ganguly said.
He told PTI that the number of new cases before the court is increasing as people have nowhere else to go for getting justice.
“Number of cases is increasing while judges’ strength is going down; governments need to expedite appointments of new judges,” he said.
Holding that both the central and state governments need to put in more effort to alleviate the situation, Mr. Ganguly said there are huge vacancies in the lower judiciary also, which need to be filled up.
A total of 26,64,284 cases are pending in different courts in West Bengal till May 14, as per the National Judicial Data Grid.
Of these, 20,47,901 are criminal, while 6,16,383 are civil cases, according to the data.
Mr. Ganguly said that litigants are facing immense hardship owing to the situation leading from lack of an adequate number of judges and huge pendency of cases.
He said that lawyers also need to put in extra effort to ensure that litigants get justice in time.
Calcutta High Court Bar Association president Arunabha Ghosh said that owing to the inadequate strength of the bench, a situation has also arisen where judges are not always getting jurisdiction as per their specialisation.
Jurisdiction of a judge is the discretion of the Chief Justice which denotes the subjects on which a judge will hear petitions.
“Many recommendations of the High Court collegium which have also been passed by the Supreme Court collegium are pending before the Union Law and Justice ministry,” he said, maintaining these require to be acted upon faster.
Claiming that more than 200 posts of judges in high courts across the country are vacant, Mr. Ghosh called for immediate filling up of these posts for speedy disposal of cases.
Holding that the number of service judges needs to be increased in the lower judiciary, he also called for more concerted efforts by all the stakeholders to fast-track the justice delivery system.
A joint conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of high courts was held on April 30 in New Delhi to discuss creation of frameworks for simple and convenient delivery of justice.