Honourable Holidays – Mr. Justice is on Vacation

The Article Below is Originally Published in Bar and Bench.

Authors: Raghul Sudheesh & Bharat R. Itagi

Vacationing may very well help you rejuvenate yourself and help you start your life afresh once you are back to the mundane. It may very well up your sagging spirits. But, no matter how articulately you enlist the positive effects of vacations, it is prima facie unreasonable for their Lordships – the hallowed Law keepers of the land - of the Indian Judiciary to go on long vacations, when the number of pending cases before them is sky rocketing!

A glance at the calendar of the Supreme Court for this year would be able to drive the point home. The Supreme Court yearly vacation was from 16th May to 2nd July, which is a good one month and 19 days, and about 43 days cumulatively, in terms of festivals and public holidays. This brings the total number of days on which the Supreme Court will not function, to about three months. Therefore, in the year 2011 the Supreme Court will be functioning only for nine months. This limited time of nine months can be increased considerably if the yearly vacation is done away with. Now, this does not mean that all the Judges should be made to work round the year. Instead, if the vacation can be made available to the Judges in turns, then there will be a lesser waste of time.

The 230th Law Commission of India Report of Judicial Reforms addresses this issue. The Law Commission recommends that, due to the high rate of pendency of cases and the tendency of the lawyers to seek adjournments on flimsy needs, the time allotted for court holidays needs to be checked. The Report also recommends that the vacation period of the entire Judiciary - starting from the Apex Court - should be lessened by at least 10-15 days. The other alternative suggested by the report is that the attendance of the Judges at international conferences should be taken up in turns. Further, the report recommends that if the working hours are extended by even half an hour, the Judges will be able to contribute in a large way to check the high rates of pendency. The Report specifically recommends that the higher remuneration should be reciprocated by complete devotion of time to discharge their judicial functions.

The following table shows the year-wise number of days on which the Supreme Court of India remains closed on account of either vacation or festivities and public holidays.

Reason for the Vacation
Summer Vacation
Festivals and Public Holidays

The table connotes that on an average the Supreme Court remains closed cumulatively for three months in a given year; in the sense that the Supreme Court is open for the redressal merely for nine months.

The following table depicts the number of holidays excluding the weekly holidays but including the vacation period of Supreme Courts of a few nations:

The days of vacation should always be weighed with corresponding rate of pendency and the crunch of time. Given the high rate of cases pending disposal in the Supreme Court of India, a shorter vacation would have a larger impact.

Relevance of reducing the number of holidays:

It is an admitted fact that for institutions like that of Supreme Court, time is extremely valuable and cannot be afforded to go unproductive. To top it all, a large part of the pie gets marked as holidays. Apart from the marked yearly vacation of over a month and above, the Supreme Court cannot function on a list of days due to religious festivities.

It is a lesser-known fact that the Supreme Court of United States does not have a yearly vacation. Although the hearing sittings are limited for a few months but during the rest of the year, the Judges are ‘at work’, in the sense the Judges will be either researching on the cases before them, holding conferences etc. After they have worked on a case at hand, depending on the stage of the case, there are a few months allocated only for pronouncement of judgments. But one thing to be noted is that the entire dockets of cases of any given year are disposed off in a year’s time.

In case of the Indian Apex Court, the scenario is entirely different. There may be many of us who might argue that, the legal systems of the two nations are different or there is a vast difference on the number of cases pending and the procedure followed in both the nations. All these arguments are true but an attempt is being made in this article to analyze what will be the effect of reducing the vacation period of the courts in India. Reducing the vacation period is one of the factors that can be thought out to increase the speed of disposal of cases. It is pertinent to note that the quorum of judges in the US Supreme Court is nine. Indian Supreme Court is jeweled with twenty-seven Judges excluding the Chief Justice.

The Apex Court of Australia gets about 6 weeks of vacation spread over in summer and winter, which is much lesser when compared to India. One of the aspects to be considered at this juncture is the high rate of pendency of cases in India. Unlike Australia, the cases pending for disposal before the Supreme Court of India are way beyond comparison. This yardstick is of high importance because the attention of the Supreme Court is crippled due to paucity of time. This problem can be addressed to a larger extent if the vacation period is reduced even by a few weeks every year. 

According to Frank Tyger, “When you like your work every day is a holiday.”  This sentence says it all. If everyone in the Judiciary including the Judges, advocates and all the office bearers imbibe in themselves these words of Tyger, then it will surely reduce the rate of pendency of cases. The long drawn process and procedure of Courts of Law will not put any litigant to sufferance. There have been instances which connote that no Judge is willing to like the work he does and hence he seems to be enjoying the holidays by making the layman wait; most of the times for more than a decade! Let the Hon’ble Judges acknowledge the vitality of reducing the holidays and address the nation in a way as is required and aspired by the citizens.

Raghul Sudheesh is Associate Editor at Bar & Bench and Bharat R. Itagi is a law student at University College of Law, Dharwad, Karnataka.

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