House Panel For 30 Apex Court Judges

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) In a bid to cut case arrears, raising the Supreme Court's strength to 31-- from present 26-- has been recommended by a Parliamentary panel, its chairman said today.

The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has also advocated executive ''primacy'' in appointing judges-- as prevailed before 1993.

''Transparency'' was stressed again and again as E M Sudarsana Natchiappan told journalists about his Committee's recommendations.

''The very purpose of this sanctified institution-- the judiciary-- shall be defeated if timely justice is not delivered to the people,'' Natchiappan emphasised, pointing out that courts were citizens' last resort for redressal and justice.

The decision to increase the number of apex court judges was announced by the United Progressive Alliance Cabinet in February this year. A Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha two months later and referred to the Committee ten days later.

''The reason and the need for bringing forth the present Bill is the pendency of cases in the Supreme Court,'' Natchiappan told a news conference.

He said in the matter of appointing judges, the Committee was for ''restoring the pre-1993 position.'' The power of appointing judges was taken over by the Indian judiciary through a judgement in 1993 and an advisory opinion five years later.

The move has since been criticised from time time, especially when instances of judicial misconduct came to light, but the government at the time failed to even seek a review of the order.

The ''pre-1993 position was a better option as it was in consonance with the provision of the Constitution wherein the executive and the judiciary both were involved in the consultative process and the executive had the primacy.'' The committee recommended augmenting the number of Supreme Court judges from 25 to 30 excluding the Chief Justice, Natchiappan said.

He said the Committee also recommended fewer court holidays, higher apex court fees for commercial litigants and raising the retirement age of high court judges to 65.

''The Committee has directed the government for taking every conceivable step (or) measures to reduce the pendency of cases not only in the Supreme Court but also in the High Courts and the Subordinate Courts so that delays occurring due to pendency of cases are reduced.'' The Committee held that Judges try to give final verdicts taking into account every fact, circumstance and evidence adduced before them-- in short, applying judicial tenets in discharge of judicial functions.

It said raising the High Court Judges' retirement age to the same as that of apex court judges ''will facilitate the availability of experienced judges for elevation to the Supreme Court.'' The Committee noted that ordinary citizens spend a lot of money and time to get justice whereas corporate or statutory bodies approch the Supreme Court by paying a ''very minimum amount of fees''-- barely Rs 250 to Rs 2,000.

It suggested a differential court fees system for the corporate sector.

The Committee also suggested reducing the length of Supreme Court vacations to increase the number of working hours and handling of cases.

UNI MJ RP SB KN1622

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