At the heart of the controversy is the Chief Justice of India’s power as the “Master of the Roster". The power now stands transferred to Ranjan Gogoi.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi today took over as the new Chief Justice of India, succeeding Dipak Misra who retired on October 2. The oath-taking ceremony was administered by President Ramnath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Interestingly, Gogoi was part of the unprecedented four-judge press conference which accused then CJI Dipak Misra of not dealing matters of the Supreme Court “in an adequate manner”. The historic presser left the nation stunned and led to moving of an impeachment motion against Misra by a senior member of opposition Congress.
Speaking at the press conference held on January 12, the judges gave enough clues that they were opposed to the CJI’s conduct, particularly in assigning the tasks to the judges. At the heart of the controversy is the chief justice’s power as the “Master of the Roster”. The power now stands transferred to Ranjan Gogoi.
With controversies during the tenure of the former CJI now in the past, CJI Gogoi will now head key benches that will address some prominent issues, including deciding on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit. However, a crucial part of his tenure, that will end on 17th November, 2019, will have to be dedicated to the challenges that confront the Supreme Court.
Here’s a look at the challeges Ranjan Gogoi must address as the CJI:
Pendency of cases
The biggest problem before the new CJI will be pendency of cases. As per the data collated by National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the situation looks like getting out of hand with the backlog touching 3.3 crore cases. While 2.84 crore cases are pending in the lower courts, High Courts have 43 lakh and Supreme Court has more than 57,000 cases pending. For the Supreme Court, more than 15,000 cases are older than five years.
Judges overworked, SC needs more manpower
Not long ago, former CJI TS Thakur broke down at a meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 24, 2016, over the issue of unprecedented pressure on the judges in the country. The former CJI pointed out the terrible discrepancy between the population and the number of judges required to deal with them and said that the number of judges be raised from the current 21,000 to 40,000.
As per Thakur’s statement on the given day, an average Indian judge handles 2,600 cases in a year, compared to just 81 in the US. The lower courts handle 2 crore cases a year, he said adding that the discrepancy shocks judges visiting from abroad.
It’s needless to say that judiciary is an essential component of a healthy democracy. Hence, there’s obviously a need for a healthy and robust judicial system which is backed by sound infrastructure. However, the spending on the judiciary is much lower than desired by the judicial experts. In an article for The Indian Express, former Delhi High Court judge Rekha Sharma expressed her displeasure over the allocation of a meagre Rs 1,744 crore to the judiciary, about 0.4 per cent of the total budget.
In July, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra openly denied the government’s claim that sufficient funds were spent for the improvement of Indian Court’s infrastructure. The event was attended by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as well, The Times of India reported on July 26. “I am not going to ask him (Ravi Shankar Prasad) what is the percentage allocation,” Misra was quoted as saying in the TOI report.
Important cases Ranjan Gogoi will hear as CJI
– Special courts for tainted Netas: Justice Gogoi has been hearing a case related to setting up of special courts across the country to exclusively hear and decide on criminal cases against sitting Members of Parliament and state assemblies.
-Polygamy law: Another case which awaits Justice Gogoi’s attention relates to polygamy among Muslims. Some pleas filed in Supreme Court challenge the legality of ‘nikah halala’, ‘nikah mutah’ (temporary marriage among Shias) and ‘nikah misyar’ (short-term marriage among Sunnis) on grounds that these violate Articles 14, 15 and 21. of the Constitution.
– Arushi murder case: The top judge is also hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal against the acquittal of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the sensational Arushi Talwar murder case.
– Justice Gogoi is also heading a bench looking over the progress in the appointment of Lokpal and Lokayuktas.
First CJI to be Live Telecast
Justice Ranjan Gogoi will also be the first chief justice who will face a camera inside courtroom for live-streaming of the proceedings.
The latest move comes after a Supreme Court verdict last week and is aimed at bringing “transparency and accountability” to the judicial process will initially live-stream only cases of national and constitutional importance.