CJI Sathasivam wants to speed up justice delivery

Exactly 40 years after having his first brush with the judiciary as an advocate,Justice P Sathasivam on Friday took oath as the 40th Chief Justice of India and began his nine-month-stint with the heavy task of lessening a monstrous pendency and large vacancies in high courts. 

President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office to Justice Sathasivam at a brief function in Rashtrapati Bhavan's Darbar Hall. Those present included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. 

An unassuming and down-to-earth person, Justice Sathasivam rushed from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Supreme Court to preside over a three-judge bench, which had several matters on the hearing list. 

The primary task for anyone at the helm of affairs of the three-tier justice delivery system is to free it from the monstrous pendency of 3 crore cases. "Backlogs of cases are the bottlenecks for delivering prompt justice," he says. 

Justice Sathasivam has radical ideas to tackle the problem. He wants to categorize cases based on the year of filing and assign them to courts with instructions to clear them within a specific time span. During the period of tackling backlog, these courts would not be assigned new cases. 

For this, he will soon hold discussions with judges of the Supreme Court, high court chief justices, chief ministers and the Union government for creation of more courts and appointment of judges.

With a large number of posts of judges in high courts lying vacant for a long time, the new CJI will get an opportunity to implement his idea of giving adequate representation to women and members of backward classes, who he says must meet the minimum merit criteria, in the higher judiciary. 

He does not share the popular belief that the existing collegium system to select judges can be termed as a system in which judges appoint judges. "It cannot be claimed that the government (state and central) has no role in the appointment of judges," he said and discounted the hope that National Judicial Commission would be able to address the apprehensions against the present system. 

Born on April 27, 1949, Justice Sathasivam enrolled as an advocate in July 1973 in Madras. He was appointed a permanent judge of the Madras High Court in January 1996 and was elevated to the Supreme Court in August 2007. He will retire as CJI on April 26, 2014.

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