Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday laid stress on taking in-house corrective measures to ensure discipline, judicial propriety and accountability in all courts, and criticised some of high courts for procrastinating PILs.
Prasad was speaking on the occasion of Independence Day in the apex court lawn where Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi unfurled the national flag in the presence of other dignitaries, including Attorney General K K Venugopal and senior advocates.
Prasad said that there should be a fast-track approach for disposal of old appeals as criminal and civil appeals of 1980s are still pending in high courts.
"The way PIL is being detained in some states by the high courts as if they are running parallel to their state governance. What should be done?...Equally important is that in-house corrective measures should be there including in the apex court to ensure discipline, judicial propriety and accountability," he said.
Prasad further said, "I see criminal appeals of 1982/83 still pending in the high courts. I don't want to take names but they are pending in high courts. Civil appeals of 1977/78 are pending and even the first appeals are pending...There should be a fast-track approach for disposal of old appeals. Take up 10-year-old cases in priority and then come to five years' old."
Attorney General Venugopal also expressed concern over the pending criminal and civil appeals and said there should be an intermediate court of appeal between the Supreme court and the high courts in each of the four regions of the country -- east, west, north and south.
"When I was looking at the causelist of the Supreme Court yesterday, 30 civil appeals were there which were pending from 2007, which is about 12 years. Just imagine such cases are also pending in high court and the district courts, maybe for 9 or 10 years. We require a bold person today to address the court system in our country," said the law officer.
Venugopal further said that there should be distinct judges constituting the court of appeal and the collegium system of the apex court should be the basis of their appointment too.
"There should be intermediate courts of appeal between Supreme Court and the high courts of the country...In each of the four regions of this country, there be distinct judges constituting the court of appeal. Let the judges be elevated from the high court and the same process by which collegium of the Supreme Court appoints judges be the basis," he said.
Chief Justice Gogoi said that it was a topic of discussion with various stakeholders.
Venugopal said that the court of appeal cannot be allowed to run like the appellate court.
"We cannot possibly allow it to be an ordinary routine court of appeal like any other appellate courts," he said.
Venugopal said that the advocates practising at the apex court will also practise at the court of appeal and
as far as litigants were concerned, the court of appeal should be closer to them.
"No further appeal will lie other than the review at the same court. The judges at the Supreme Court will not have to burn the midnight oil now dealing with these cases... This will lessen the burden of the lawyers and the judges. It will be a new beginning. The Supreme Court will have pendency of only two years and pendency of cases in the court of appeal will also be of only for two years," he said.
The law minister also said the way some of the judgements were passed by some of the high courts was "arbitrary".
"Some judges, just two days to their retirement, give judgements of questionable validity and sit on television for three days to justify it. I don't think it should be done. there has to be a forum," he said.
He further said that the Centre has no business to interfere as far as adjudication process of justice was concerned.
Talking about infrastructure, Prasad said that the proposal of setting up of 1,023 special fast-track courts to deal with cases under the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act will be done.
He further said that a committee has been set up to ensure security of lawyers.
Talking about speedy justice, Venugopal said that the government and the judges have failed in ensuring expeditious delivery of justice.
Talking to reporters at the sidelines of the event, Venugopal also said, "Article 370 is a good move by the Centre."
CJI Gogoi said the increased strength of the top court was expected to reduce the perceived pendency of cases before it.
"The administration will look forward to cooperation from all stakeholders for reinventing our existing infrastructure...Multi-stakeholder institutions like the judiciary do not have any place for parochialism and their growth demands be sensible," said the CJI.
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