NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over long pendency of court cases, Congress Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor Tuesday alleged there were examples of judiciary’s “insensitivities” including rejection of several applications on the plight of migrant labourers during the COVID-19 period.
Initiating a debate on the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, he said decisions have been one after the other which go beyond the question of separation of power between the executive and judiciary.
He alleged that there is a concern of executive influence on the cases related to abrogation of Article 370 over judiciary.
On Habeas Corpus too, there is unusual delay in hearing, Tharoor said, adding, these key fundamental tools empower citizens when their fundamental right to life is under threat.
A large number of Habeas Corpus petitions is pending before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and according to the law, the cases of Habeas Corpus have been be disposed in 15 days while some courts are taking as long as 252.5 days on an average.
In contrast, Tharoor said, “many commentators have contrasted with the urgency with which Bombay High Court dealt with a writ of certain editor of a television channel which claims to deliver news that the nation allegedly wants to know.”
Pointing to a case on constitutional validity of demonetisation, he said, a three-judge bench ordered constitution of the larger bench which is yet to be constituted.
When he mentioned some pending cases including Bhima Koregaon case and Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Ishrat Jahan case, BJP’s Nishkant Dubey raised point of order to which A Raja, who presiding the House, asked Tharoor not to mention cases which are pending before various courts.
Observing that there are about four crore cases are pending across various courts, he said, it is due to shortage of judges at various courts.
There is a huge shortage of 406 high court judges.
Of the total strength, 41 per cent position are lying vacant, Tharoor said, adding, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Making a case for raising retirement age of judges, he said, this will also help in bringing down the pendency at higher courts.
While introducing the bill for passage, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said it has a very limited provision and it pertains to pension of retired judges.
This bill seeks to bring clarity on when Supreme Court and high court judges are entitled to an additional quantum of pension or family pension on attaining a certain age.
The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, which was introduced by Rijiju amid din by opposition over farmers’ issues, proposes to amend the High Court Judges (Salaries and Condition of Service) Act and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Condition of Service) Act.
According to the bill, in 2009 the two laws were amended to provide that every retired judge or after his death, the family, as the case may be, will be entitled to an additional quantum of pension or family pension.
Accordingly, the additional quantum of pension to retired judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court is being sanctioned on completing the age of 80 years, 85 years, 90 years, 95 years and 100 years, as the case may be.
However, in a writ petition filed by a retired high court judge Virendra Dutt Gyani, the Gauhati High Court in it order of March 15, 2018 had held that benefit of additional quantum of pension under the High Court Judges Act in the first slab would be available to a retired judge from the first day of his 80th year.
“Subsequently, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh also, vide its order dated December 3, 2020 passed in writ petitions filed by the Association of Retired Judges of Supreme Court and High Court of India, has directed respondent Union of India to construe the word ‘from’ as it appears on the slab under section 16B of the 1958 Act and section 17B of the 1954 Act as the first day of entering the minimum age of the slab — 80,85,90,95 and 100 years — along with other consequential benefits to the petitioners,” the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill reads.