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Judge shortage hits judicial activities

Published : 15 Oct 2021 11:08 PM | Updated : 16 Oct 2021 01:56 PM

Thousands of cases have piled up in both the Appellate and High Court divisions of the Supreme Court because of the shortage of judges, while more than 39 lakh cases are also pending in the lower courts across the county.

The pending cases have increased further due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation, causing immense suffering to the litigants as well as the justice seekers.

Lawyers and experts said that shortage of judges hits the judicial activities in the country.

It is very difficult to fulfill the responsibility of the judiciary with a small number of manpower.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, Advocate Mujahid Shahin, a lawyer of Bangladesh

Supreme Court, said that even if there are so many judges working day and night, it is not possible to dispose of thousands of pending cases. Judges need to be appointed on an urgent basis in both the Supreme Court and the lower courts, he added.

Law Minister Anisul Haque said that there is no alternative to increasing the number of judges to reduce the case backlog. The Law and Justice Division of his ministry is working to increase the number of judges. He, however, said that judges would be appointed to the Appellate and High Court divisions of the Supreme Court as per the continuous process, while the government is working to create new posts for judges in the lower courts.

The number of judges, including the Chief Justice, in the Appellate Division, is now only five, while the number of judges in the High Court Division is 92. The chief justice, however, will retire on December 31 this year.

Each judge of the Supreme Court is burdened with thousands of cases. The total number of pending cases with the Appellate Division is now about 22,000, while the number is over 4,50,000 with the High Court, said sources.

Although the number of pending cases is increasing day by day rapidly with the

Appellate Division, the number of the judges has not increased in the last 47 years. In 1974, the apex court had five judges, while the pending cases at that time were 4,094. However, the number of HC judges has increased, and the number of pending cases has also increased. In 1974, the number of HC judges was 12 and the pending cases at that time were 28,186.

Meanwhile, the number of judicial officers in the lower courts across the country is also less than the demand. There are a total of 1920 judicial officers in the lower courts, while the number of pending cases is more than 39 lakhs.

The number of pending cases is increasing in the lower courts like in the higher court. It was known that the number of pending cases in the county’s lower court was 31,55,878 in 2016; while the number was 33,54,500 in 2017; it was 35,69650 in 2018, the number was 36,84,728 in 2020 and the number stood at 39,33,186 in 2021.

Litigants face sufferings due to the shortage of judges in the higher court and the lower courts. Many lawyers said that they also face sufferings because of the shortage of judges.

The Bangladesh Law Commission recommended recruitment of 3,000 judges in the lower courts for quick disposal of pending cases and reducing sufferings of justice seekers. The Parliament Secretariat on May 21 in 2014 also prepared a recommendation for recruiting a total of 3,000 new judicial officers in the lower courts.  However, the recommendations have not been implemented till now.

Sources at the Law and Justice Division said that the lower courts would get 100 more assistant judges as soon as possible. The Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission (BJSC) has completed the process of appointing the assistant judges through the 13th Bangladesh Judicial Service (BJS) examination-2019. The assistant judges will be appointed after the verification process of the home ministry is completed.

The law ministry sources said the BJSC has already issued a recruitment circular given the demand letter sent by the ministry for the appointment of 100 more assistant judges through the 14 th BJS examination.

 An official of the law ministry said that a monitoring cell of the Solicitor Division of the Law and Justice Division is working to resolve old cases on a priority basis. Steps have been taken to reduce the case backlog through alternative dispute resolution.

Some lawyers stressed on digitalisation of the case management system for faster case disposal. A lawyer opined for structural reform in the Appellate Division. He said that it is important to have at least 15 judges in the Appellate Division. There should be ¾ specialised benches, such as a branch for hearing criminal cases; another to hear the civil cases; and another to hear company lawsuits.

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