Who doesn’t like a good vacation? How much vacation is too much vacation?
The vacations taken by the courts in India have long been under contention and have been a matter of public scrutiny. By the means of this article, we will try to analyze the arguments both towards and against these ‘long vacations’ and provide our own views and suggestions with regards to the same.
From a regular subordinate court in the country to the apex court of the country, no court has been spared criticism for the overly elongated of vacations these courts enjoy. This issue becomes even more contentious as the pendency of cases in the courts across the country continues to balloon every passing day. In the previous year, the Supreme Court worked for 193 days throughout the year with the High Court’s clocking in an average of 210 days and the Subordinate Courts across the country functioning for an average of 245 days throughout the year. Now that we know the facts, we turn our attention to the reasoning provided by either side on their demand for a reduction in these vacations and continuation of these vacations respectively.
Why should these vacations be reduced?
The core argument of this faction is that the long court vacations should primarily be scrapped simply because it’s a practice that has directly been inherited from the colonial period. The Judges largely comprised of Englishmen, who preferred to go back to their homeland for vacations but due to the distance and various other factors, required a longer break.
The biggest chunk of these vacations was intentionally kept during the summer months, so as to help the judges beat the heat by going back home. But since we have gained independence, the long breaks have lost their relevance as the judges are natives. Another contention is that given the humongous backlog of cases in the country the long breaks only piles on to the problem.
The courts should rather work longer hours to reduce this backlog. It is also argued that these prolonged vacations are unfair towards other professions, and the special treatment of Judiciary is in fact unfair towards the Legislature and the Executive, who have to work the standard amount of days. Additionally, the plight of the litigant cannot be ignored, as usual, they have to wait for years to get any sort of relief in the form of a Judgement, and in such a situation reduction of court, vacations can aid their situation by relatively speeding up the judicial process.
Why are the long vacations justified?
The primary distinction that this faction draws for the Judiciary with respect to other professions is the nature of their work and the additional time and effort that Judiciary requires, and this very point serves as their primary justification. Judges are, they argue, overburdened with an extreme amount of work and hence, their job is disproportionately taxing.
The working hours of a litigator can’t only be determined by the time spent in the court, and the preparation for another case including the research and drafting process related to it is in fact done in the chambers after the ‘work hours’ are completed. Hence, the litigators work much more than is seen on paper. Even during these so-called vacations, Judges usually use the break to complete pending judgments, study and research further and attend to other work-related commitments.
Hence, the time spent by them in courts is only a small amount of time that’s devoted by them into their job. While on paper the Supreme Court judges only work five days a week, in reality, they spend a huge chunk of their nights and weekends in their chambers working on cases. Hence, are these vacations really vacations?
Analysis of the status quo and the way forward –
From the above sections we realize that while the contentions against the long vacations are fairly justified, the judges don’t have it as easy as it might seem on the surface of it. They have to put in a lot of work beyond the court hours and are extremely overburdened. There is also a vacation bench in place during these breaks to address any matter of urgent nature. The effectiveness of the vacation bench has increased in recent times with the broadening of the scope of their work.
Hence, the most effective way to address this conundrum would be to actually shift some of the workloads from the regular working days to the vacations. What this effectively means is that the working hours should be relaxed during regular workdays, and multiple shifts can also be used to effectively provide justice round the clock, while not putting an excessive burden on the judge.
The scope of the work allotted to the vacation bench should also be broadened while rotating the members on the vacation bench every short duration. This would ensure that the burden of dispensing justice isn’t solely on the shoulders a few judges and all the judges’ work with greater efficiency.
Student of Law at National Law University, Delhi