No vacation benches available till Jan 1: CJI Chandrachud after Centre's jibe
Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud made it clear on Friday (December 16) that no vacation benches will be available in the apex court during the winter break from December 17 till January 1.
This announcement comes in the wake of Union law minister Kiren Rijiju’s jibe in Rajya Sabha a day earlier that there was a feeling among people that the court’s “long vacations” inconvenienced litigants.
Friday is the last working day before the court goes into winter recess from December 17. The apex court will re-open on January 2 next year.
“There will be no benches available from tomorrow till January 1,” Justice Chandrachud told the lawyers in the courtroom. Vacation benches are special benches designated by the CJI during summer and winter breaks to hear ‘urgent matters’ like pleas concerning bail, habeas corpus and other fundamental rights’ issues.
The issue of judges enjoying long court vacations has often come under flak. But, many senior judges like former CJI NV Ramana, have tried to dispel this “misconception”. According to CJI Ramana, judges actually spend sleepless nights rethinking their decisions during the breaks.
There is a “misconception” in the minds of the people that judges stay in ultimate comfort, work only from 10 am to 4 pm and enjoy their holidays. “Such a narrative is untrue… when false narratives are created about the supposed easy life led by judges, it is difficult to swallow,” he had said, while delivering the inaugural Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture on ‘Life of a Judge’ in Ranchi in July this year.
Further, Justice Ramana had said the responsibility of a judge is extremely burdensome because of the human implication of the rulings. Actually, judges continue to work even during weekends and court holidays to do research and author pending judgments. “In this process, we miss out on many joys of our lives,” he had said.
Justice Jayant Nath too in November last year had said that the public perception of courts going on vacations like schools was not correct and they needed to engage a machinery which projects their hard work for an “image change”.
“It is a known fact that courts are overburdened with long pending cases. Unfortunately, the perception of a common man is to blame the court for delay in disposal of cases. Much is said about the courts going on vacations, comparing it with school vacations. I can say with full conviction that this public image is not correct,” Justice Nath had stressed while speaking at his farewell.
Though Rule 6 of Order II of The Supreme Court Rules, 2013, provide for the vacation benches in summer and winter holidays, the courts had vacation benches only during the May-June summer break. Usually, there have been no vacation benches during the winter holidays.
However, there have been times when vacation benches have sat like the time during the tenure of the 45th CJI Dipak Misra. In recent years, courts have also cut short their summer break by a week to counter criticism that its vacations were long. Interestingly, some important judgements were given by vacation benches like the time Justice Krishna Iyer, as a vacation bench Judge in June 1975 refused to entertain Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s plea to stay an Allahabad high court decision setting aside her election.
SC collegium vs Centre
Meanwhile, as the Centre and the SC continue to clash over the issue of judges’ appointments, Rijiju informed Parliament on Thursday that as on December 9, against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, 777 were working in the 25 high courts. This leaves a vacancy of 331, which is around 30 per cent.
“Against 331 vacancies at present, 147 proposals received from various high courts were at various stages of processing between the government and the Supreme Court Collegium,” he said in response to a written question in Rajya Sabha.
Further recommendations from high court collegiums are yet to be received in respect of 184 vacancies, the minister pointed out. Of late, the collegium system has become a major flashpoint between the SC and the central government, with the mechanism of judges appointing judges being criticised in certain quarters.
Rijiju had on November 25 launched a fresh attack, saying the collegium system is “alien” to the Constitution. While an apex court bench led by Justice SK Kaul slammed the delay by the Centre in clearing names recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges to constitutional courts. The collegium system is the law of the land and comments against it are “not well-taken”, said the court.