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Shortage of judges in SC hampering judicial process

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Gulam Rabbani :
Shortage of Judges in both the divisions of the Supreme Court (SC) is hampering the judicial process. Lawyers alleged that there are not sufficient benches in the High Court.
Lower Courts are also facing similar problems, sources said.
Only 83 High Court judges are dealing with 4 lakh 49 thousand 319 cases while only 6 Appellate Division judges are dealing with 14 thousand 326 cases, according to the latest statistics.
Ten additional judges were recruited in the High Court Division on February 9, 2015. Eight of them were permanent on February 10, 2017. One died on December 15, 2016 and another one was not considered to be permanent.
There is no new recruitment since 2015 though many posts remain vacant and case number got increased.
Even the Chief Justice went on a month-long leave on health grounds. Uncertainty remains about his return to the Appellate Division. Recently the Attorney General said that Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha's rejoining office after returning to Bangladesh was "a far cry".
At this, judiciary-related persons have uged to appoint judges quickly.
After a meeting with the Acting Chief Justice, Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, on October 29, 2017, Law Minister Advocate Anisul Huq said, "Judges crisis remains in the Supreme Court. Several judges have gone to retirement. Judges will be appointed soon in the High Court Division. After this, judges will be appointed in the Appellate Division."
There is no specific number of judges of the SC in our Constitution. The President appoints judges according to the advice of the Chief Justice and the need he deems necessary.
According to the Article 94(2) of the Constitution, "The Supreme Court shall consist of the Chief Justice, to be known as the Chief Justice of Bangladesh, and such number of other Judges as the President may deem it necessary to appoint to each division."
After taking the charge of the Chief Justice, Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha took some initiatives to reduce case backlog. But the problem was not solved yet.
On August 2016, the Chief Justice Surendra Kumar had a long meeting with the Law Minister Anisul Huq and the CJ gave advice to the government to recruit 8 Additional Judges in the High Court. But the government didn't take any step for this yet.
Acting Chief Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah has also taken some initiatives to recruit new judges and to reduce case backlog. He talked to the Law Minister about this in several meetings.
Four judges of the High Court divisions have already gone on retirement this year. Another one will go on retirement on December 30, 2017. One judge was transferred to the 'International Crimes Tribunal' last month.
Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana of the Appellate Division has gone on retirement on July 7, 2017. Now the number of the judges of the Appellate Division is six.
Justice Nizamul Huq Nasim went to retirement on March 14, 2017 and Justice Bazlur Rahman died on January 1, 2017.
Though three judges said goodbye to the Appellate Division within last 10 months, no initiative was taken to recruit new judges.
In the meantime, the Chief Justice went on a month-long leave from October 2, 2017. On October 14, 2017, the Supreme Court said in a statement that Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha was facing 11 charges, including money laundering and corruption.
The statement was issued just a day after the Chief Justice left the country for Australia. It said that the SC issued the statement in view of Chief Justice Sinha's statement, which was "misleading" and had drawn the court's attention.
Meanwhile, the number of the cases is increasing day by day. So it is being more difficult for existing judges to conduct this large number of cases.
There are 1,655 posts for judges in lower courts across the country. According to a statistics, 387 posts of them are still vacant. 1,268 judges are working in the lower courts to conduct more than 27 lakh cases. Meanwhile, more than 200 hundred judges are working in other departments on deputation.
The number of judge in the ratio of case is very low in Bangladesh. According to a statistics, 107 judges work for every 10 lakh people in the United States, 75 judges in Canada, 51 in Britain, 41 in Australia and 18 in India. But in Bangladesh, only 10 judges work for every 10 lakh people.
Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and former President of the Supreme Court Bar Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain told The New Nation that judges are recruited as per population ratio in other developed countries.
"We demanded this in various times. But no government listened. Hope, the government will take necessary action to fulfil this demand. Otherwise, the people may lose confidence on Judiciary," said the former SCBA president.

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