The Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 133th report has said that in recent years, there has been a declining trend in representation from all the marginalized sections of Indian society in the higher courts. It has shown its concerns over the Higher Judiciary of the country i.e., Supreme Court and High Courts saying that the same suffers from a ‘diversity deficit’.

The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice chaired by Sushil Kumar Modi, MP, Rajya Sabha, presented its 133rd Report on the Subject - "Judicial Processes and their reform" on August 7, 2023, to both the Houses of Parliament.

The aforesaid report reads, “As per the data provided by the Government on the social status of the Judges of the High Courts and otherwise also, it can be seen that our higher judiciary suffers from a 'diversity deficit'. The representation of SCs, STs, OBCs, Women, and Minorities in the higher judiciary is far below the desired levels and does not reflect the social diversity of the country.”

The report says that though there is no provision for reservation in the judicial appointments at High Court and Supreme Court level, the Committee feels that adequate representation of various sections of Indian society will further strengthen the trust, credibility and acceptability of the judiciary among the citizens.

“… the Committee is of the view that while making recommendations for appointments to the Higher Judiciary, both the Supreme Court and the High Court's Collegiums should recommend an adequate number of women and candidates from the marginalized sections of the society including minorities. This provision should be clearly mentioned in the Memoranda of Procedure (MoP), which is presently under finalization”, it says.

As per the report, as of now, data related to the social status of High Court judges is available from 2018 onwards and the Committee has recommended to the Department of Justice in the Union law ministry to find ways and means to collect such data in respect of all judges presently serving in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

"For doing this, if required, necessary amendments may be brought in the respective Acts or service rules of the judges," it said.

The report further reads, “The Committee feels that the demand for having regional benches of the Supreme Court of India is about 'access to justice,' which is a fundamental right under the Constitution. There has been a long-standing demand for having regional benches of the Highest Court in the country for taking justice to the doorstep of the common citizen. The regional benches may also be seen as a solution to the overflowing caseload of the judiciary and to reduce the litigation cost to the common man.”

It has said the Delhi-centric Supreme Court causes a big hurdle for those litigants who are coming from far-flung areas of the country and that there is a language problem for them, and then finding lawyers, the cost of litigation, travel, and staying in Delhi makes justice very costly.

“The Committee feels that the age of retirement of judges needs to be increased in sync with the increase in the longevity and advancement in medical sciences leading to improved health of the population. The Committee accordingly, recommends that relevant Articles of the Constitution of India need to be amended and the age of retirement of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts may be increased appropriately”, it says.

The report also observes that the demand for doing away with vacations in the Courts emanates primarily due to two factors, one is the huge pendency of cases in our courts, and the other is the inconvenience faced by the litigants during the vacations of the courts.

“For reducing pendency there is a need to have a multipronged strategy. However, at the same time, it is an undeniable fact that vacations in the judiciary are a 'colonial legacy' and with entire court going on vacation en mass causes deep inconvenience to the litigants”, it suggests.

It says that the declaration of assets by the Judges of the Higher Judiciary will only bring more trust and credibility into the system as there is no harm if each Court also, at the beginning of every year, takes stock of work that it had transacted last year.

“Accordingly, the Committee recommends the Department of Justice to approach the Supreme Court of India requesting them to issue necessary directions to all the High Courts to prepare and publish their Annual Reports regularly, on their respective websites. In this regard, the Supreme Court may suggest the items to be included in the Annual Report, so that there is uniformity in the Report to be prepared by different High Courts”, the report concluded.

Click here to read/download the Report