Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on Friday said no Supreme Court bench will be available from December 17 till January 1 during the ensuing winter vacations.
The CJI’s announcement made in the apex court assumes significance in the wake of Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s statement in Rajya Sabha on Thursday in which he said there was a feeling among the people that long court vacations were not very convenient for justice seekers.
“There will be no benches available from tomorrow till January 1,” Justice Chandrachud informed the lawyers present in the courtroom at the outset.
Friday is the last working day of the top court before it goes on a two-week winter break. The apex court will reopen on January 2.
The issue regarding court vacations has been raised earlier also but judges, including former CJI N V Ramana, had said there is a misconception that judges stay in ultimate comfort and enjoy their holidays.
Delivering the inaugural Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture on ‘Life of a Judge’ in Ranchi in July, the then CJI Ramana had said judges spend sleepless nights rethinking their decisions.
“There exists 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.
Justice Ramana had said the responsibility of judging is extremely burdensome owing to the human implication of the rulings.
“We 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.
Similarly, a former judge of the Delhi High Court,Justice Jayant Nath, had in November last year said that the public perception of courts going on vacations like schools was not correct and an appropriate machinery must be engaged to project 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 said while speaking at his farewell reference organised by the high court on November 9 last year.
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, leaving a vacancy of 331 (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.
Rijiju said in 2022, till December 9, the government has appointed a “record number” of 165 judges in various high courts, which is the “highest in a calendar year so far”.
Of late, the collegium system has become a major flashpoint between the Supreme Court and the central government, with the mechanism of judges appointing judges drawing criticism from different quarters.
Rijiju had on November 25 launched a fresh attack, saying the collegium system is “alien” to the Constitution.
On the judicial side, an apex court bench led by Justice S K Kaul has been very critical of the delay by the Centre in clearing the names recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges to constitutional courts, saying the collegium system is the law of the land and comments against it are “not well-taken”.