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Lok Sabha takes up amendment bill on salaries, conditions of service of judges; Rajya Sabha faces adjournments

ANI | Updated: Dec 08, 2021 01:06 IST

New Delhi [India], December 8 (ANI): The Lok Sabha on Tuesday took up a bill that seeks to bring clarity concerning the date of eligibility of additional quantum of pension to a retired judge while the Rajya Sabha continued to face adjournments over the suspension of 12 members last week.
Members in Lok Sabha raised issues of their concern. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tabled "a list of names of farmers who died during the protest against the three farm laws" that have been repealed.
He said the Centre had stated that it had no data on farmers who had died during the protest and he was giving the names. He said Punjab Government had provided compensation for the death of farmers from the state during the agitation.
Participating in a debate on High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, Lok Sabha members expressed concern over the pendency of cases in courts with many of them making suggestions to increase the retirement age of judges.
Some members also suggested bringing uniformity in retirement age of judge of Supreme Court and High Courts.
The bill seeks to bring clarity concerning the date of eligibility of additional quantum of pension to a retired judge.
A BJP member also said that the government should revisit the NJAC judgement and come out with a new bill with "corrections".
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju is expected to give a reply to the debate on Thursday.
The bill seeks to amend the High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act and The Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act. It proposes to insert an explanation in section 17B of the High Court Judges Act and in section 16B of the Supreme Court Judges Act to clarify the intention of the government.
Initiating the debate, Congress member Shashi Tharoor said the government should propose a larger bill to increase the age of retirement of judges, fill vacancies, reduce pendency of cases, and "eliminate post-retirement appointments in government, or at least have a three to a five-year cooling-off period before any such appointments can be made for judges to guarantee the judiciary's independence".
"Until then, we must confront the kinds of problems I have outlined that plague our higher judicial system and hamper its effectiveness. I, therefore, support this bill while deploring its inadequacy in addressing the major challenges that our judges and judiciary must still overcome in the interests of our citizens and democracy," he said.
Tharoor said that to truly build a new India, there is a need to separate the powers and roles of the legislature, the judiciary and the executive "to ensure that the first two do not become mere rubber stamps for the third".
"This requires a clear separation of powers in order to ensure both efficiency and democracy. By ensuring the status and conditions of service of our judges, we are giving them the opportunity to increase their productivity and exercise true judicial independence," he said.
Tharoor, who faced some interruptions during his speech, said that there have been "very few hearings" in the case concerning the electoral bonds over the last four years and the court "has refused to stay the implementation of the scheme while ignoring the red flags waved even by the Election Commission of India".
He said 406 posts of judges are currently lying vacant in 25 high courts around the country. "Against the sanctioned strength of 1098 as of November 2021, 406 are vacant. That is 41 per cent of the total strength. In all the high courts of Delhi, Allahabad, Kolkata, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Telangana, there are shortages of more than one-third of the total strength of judges. This is not just an issue that affects the citizens of a country for whom, in these conditions, the process of seeking justice has in many ways become a punishment in itself. It also holds worrying ramifications for the governance of our nation," he said.
The Congress leader said there are staggering 4.4 crore cases pending in the country, that include over 3.77 crore cases in the subordinate courts, 57 lakh cases in the high courts, and 73,000 cases in the Supreme Court as of September this year.
BJP member PP Chaudhary said that in the NJAC (National Judicial Appointments Commission) Judgement, "a small mistake" has been pointed out by the Supreme Court. "It is not said that the Government is not competent to legislate it. It is only with respect to the constitution of the committee. The constitution of the committee can be corrected and we can bring a new bill, where the eminent persons from the categories such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women may be appointed on the Committee for a period of three years. My request is that we have to revisit the NJAC judgement and come out with a new Bill making the respective corrections," he said.
DMK's Dayanidhi Maran said why there cannot be uniformity in the retirement age of Supreme Court and High Court judges.
"The same High Court Judge has to retire at 62 years of age, but if he is elevated to the Supreme Court, he can stay up to 65 years of age. Why can you not have uniformity? You should do that. Please bring a law in this regard. All Judges should have a retirement age of 65 years. If you want to make it 67 years, please do it. We will welcome it," he said.
Kalyan Banerjee of Trinamool Congress said there are 4.5 crore pending cases across all courts in India as of September 15, 2021.
In fact, in 2019, there were 3.3 crore pending cases, which means that in the last two years, India has added 23 cases every minute to its pendency list.
He also referred to vacancies in courts.
"Today, the website of the Department of Justice tells us that the sanctioned strength of High Court Judges is 1,098 and vacancies are 402. The sanctioned and working strength of judicial officers in the district and subordinate courts has also increased. As on 31 December, 2013, the sanctioned strength was 19,518 and working strength was 15,115. As on 28 January, 2021, the sanctioned strength was 24,485,and working strength was 19,294. Pendency problem is a long-standing issue across the Indian judiciary," he said.
The Rajya Sabha faced repeated adjournments from morning over the suspension of 12 MPs. They were suspended last week for "unruly conduct" on the last day of the monsoon session.
The House sought to take up the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2021. Opposition members resorted to protest and raised slogans every time Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya began to speak on the bill. The Chair urged the opposition members to allow the House to function but as protests continued, the House was adjourned for the day after adjournments earlier. (ANI)