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Will retirement of eight SC judges in 2022 see smooth succession?

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will sing Auld Lang Syne for eight judges this year including the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana even before 2022 runs its course.

And yet, it’s not clear how the Supreme Court Collegium and the government plan to fill the vacancies to arise during the course of 2022.

While CJI Ramana is scheduled to step down on August 27, 2022, his likely successor in terms of seniority Justice UU Lalit may have just a little over two months before he too retires on November 8.

If the next senior judge DY Chandrachud is appointed the Chief Justice of India after Justice Lalit, he will have a good two-year term till November 10, 2024.

According to the retirement schedule, Justice Lalit will be the last one to retire and his departure will be preceded by seven judges including the CJI.

The first on the list of retirement is Justice R Subhash Reddy who will step down tomorrow i.e. 04.01.2022. Justice Vineet Saran will follow him as he will retire on May 10 whereas Justice L Nageshwar Rao will retire on June 7.

Justice AM Khanwilkar will retire on July 29 to be followed by Justice Indira Banerjee on September 23 and Justice Hemant Gupta on October 16.

It may be underlined that out of 34, the total sanctioned posts of judges, one post is already vacant.

It is stressed that to maintain the dignity and efficiency of the Supreme Court, it’s vital that the scheduled vacancies are filled as soon as they arise.

About 70,000 cases are said to have been pending in the SC. This is despite the fact that a record 1.5 lakh cases were heard via video conferencing in 2021 after the virtual hearing started post-March 2020.

Already, the dignity of the judicial system has suffered a huge blow because of the backlog of cases running into crores.

About 37% vacancies of judges in High Courts and over 20% in district courts has considerably slowed down the administered justice system that is seen to be already mired down by too many deficiencies.

It is reported that about 56 lakh cases are pending in High Courts. The rising pendency of cases has touched the 5.7 crores mark with district courts accounting for the bulk of these cases.

The latter can’t be entirely pinned down for the delays as out of 24,247 sanctioned posts, these courts have 4,928 posts vacant.

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