Justice Ranjan Gogoi – the seniormost judge of the top court after Chief Justice Dipak Misra – on Saturday dismissed the suggestion for fixed tenure of the Chief Justice of India so as to give them enough time to push the reforms in the judicial system.
Addressing the issue of fixed term, he said that in judiciary when it comes to elevation of judges, there are some norms, particularly seniority and it may not be a good idea to deny a person the chance of becoming CJI merely because his tenure would be short.
The problem in pushing reforms is not with the length of the tenure as CJI – whether short or long – but with the change in priorities with the change of CJIs, Justice Gogoi said priorities once set had to be consistently adhered to by the successive CJIs.
“Problem does not lie with the short tenure. Problem lies with the change of priority with the change of Chief Justice. We must have consistent policy. Tenure does not matter,” he said, responding to the suggestion of fixed tenure for the CJIs by Prof N.R.Madhava Menon – former Vice Cancellor of National Law School of India, Bengaluru.
Citing the fixed tenure of the Cabinet Secretary, service and police chiefs, Menon advocated a fixed tenure of CJIs, wondering what would happen to the defence of the country if service chiefs were to have short tenures running into a few months.
Addressing the number of issues that emerged during day long deliberation on “National Initiative to Reduce Pendency and Delay in Judicial System”, Justice Gogoi said there “was no radical solution of the problem of the huge backlog of over three crore cases. They will not disappear overnight”.
It is a “gradual process with a multi-pronged approach and acting immediately on the solutions that have emerged in the daylong deliberations”, he said, apparently urging the High Court judges and judicial officers to get on with the task.
Addressing the issue of vacancies, Justice Gogoi said that the vacancies in the High Courts can be taken care of by the CJI and his team but the cause of concern was 5,984 vacancies in lower judiciary with Uttar Pradesh with 1,344, Bihar with 825 and Madhya Pradesh with 748 vacancies topping the list.
Pointing to the long time that is taken in the recruitment of judicial officers in different states, and urging to look at the issue with a different perspective, he said: “What we are looking for is that a man or a woman has outstanding merit and ability, utmost integrity and of absolute commitment to work. Three qualities I would look for before a person becomes a judge.”
Referring to the report of a committee that had said that the entire process for the recruitment of judges in lower judiciary should be completed in 273 days, Justice Gogoi said that Delhi took 762 days, J&K took 900 days and Pondicherry did it in 99 days.
It can happen in 99 days, and “If you have a right man at right place (then) rest will follow”, he said.
In his valedictory address, Chief Justice Misra, summing up the daylong proceedings, called for “self-discipline”, “self enhancement” and “developing a culture of work atmosphere”.
Not favouring ex-parte stay of the proceedings of the trials at lower courts, he said that they should be a “dated stay”.
Saying that standing still was “negation of life”, Chief Justice Misra said that the courts should decide the matters in a time bound manner while he drew distinction between enthusiasm, perseverance and obsession.
Dwelling on judicial statesmanship, judicial leadership and judicial discipline, he said that every case should be decided skilfully and lawfully with impose one”s own views.
On judicial discipline, he said that lawyers should not be allowed to take court’s time more than necessary.