Madhya Pradesh HC’s resolution to call ‘lower courts’ as district courts is a welcome step towards ending judicial feudalism

Source: The post is based on an article “Madhya Pradesh HC’s resolution to call ‘lower courts’ as district courts is a welcome step towards ending judicial feudalismpublished in The Indian Express on 9th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: problems associated with lower judiciary

News: The High Court of Madhya Pradesh has passed the resolution that judiciary in all courts other than the High Court shall be referred to as the ‘district judiciary’ and not as ‘subordinate judiciary’. Also, all courts other than the High Court shall be referred to as the ‘trial courts’ and not as ‘subordinate courts.’

The term “district judiciary” is also used by the Constitution (Article 236).

Did the Constitutional Assembly discuss the renaming of the subordinate judiciary?

The issue of naming the hierarchy of courts, especially the “subordinate” courts, was not discussed in the Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD).

However, discussions on the composition, jurisdiction, and functions of the Supreme Court and high courts were made.

Further, the official literature on district courts also does not make any demand or consideration for a name change.

However, the problem of a smaller number of judges in lower judiciary and their independence were discussed by various commissions and reports.

What are the different discussions made related to the lower judiciary?

The inadequate strength of judges in district court was discussed by the 120th Law Commission Report.

It was also discussed by the Standing Committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee in its 85th report (2002) which recommended increasing judge strength to 50 per 10 lakh people.

Further in 1998, the Supreme Court directed that the state should provide for the re-employment of the retiring judicial officer till the age of 62 years in case vacancies in the cadre of the district judge.

However, the Court held the retirement at 60 years as being “logical” and “reasonable”, due to the retirement age of judges of the SC and the High Courts (65 and 62 years respectively).

SC also stated that an independent and efficient judicial system is one of the basic structures of our Constitution.

This is because the principles of the rule of law and democracy give all citizens fundamental right to constitutional remedies and access to the judiciary has been termed as a basic right by the SC.

However, research conducted by the Supreme Court Centre for Research and Planning highlighted that the lower judiciary has an inadequate number of judges given the workload which act as hindrance the access to justice.

What are the limitations of the High Court over the lower judiciary?

The Constitution enacts a hierarchy of jurisdictions but it does not enact hierarchy of justices. Each judge is supreme within the appointed jurisdiction. No judge acting within her jurisdiction is higher or lower.

Further, higher court judges can only direct lower court judges by remaining under the sphere of judicial review. The Constitution prescribes that the equality and dignity of all justices, and judicial process, is horizontal and not vertical.

Further, the supervision of high courts extends to posting, promotion, leave, transfer and discipline of the members of the district judiciary. It has complete authority and control over its officers and employees.

However, this authority does not mean that the principle of independence of the judiciary or the democratic rule of law is curtailed.

 

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