The Supreme Court has 193 working days a year for its judicial functioning, while the High Court’s function for approximately 210 days, and trial courts for 245 days.
The Supreme Court takes two long vacations each year, the summer and winter breaks, but is technically not fully closed during these periods.
A Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court is a special bench constituted by the CJI.
Litigants can still approach the Supreme Court and, if the court decides that the plea is an “urgent matter”, the Vacation Bench hears the case on its merits.
Cases such as bail, eviction, etc. often find precedence in listing before vacation benches
Under Rule 6 of Order II of The Supreme Court rules, 2013, the CJI has nominated the Division Benches for hearing of urgent miscellaneous matters and regular hearing matters during the summer vacation for the period.
The rule reads that CJI may appoint one or more Judges to hear during summer vacation or winter holidays all matters of an urgent nature which under these rules may be heard by a Judge sitting singly.
Criticism of the court vacations:
- The colonial origins: The European judges of the Federal Court of India found Indian summers too hot and took the winter break for Christmas.
- Mounting pendency of cases: The court’s pendency as on December 1 is 69,598
The calendar for the year 2023 shows the court would not be fully functional for nearly 180 days.
- Not Convenient for Justice Seekers: The long vacation which the courts obtain is not very convenient for justice-seekers
Arguments in favour of court vacations:
- The judges do not take leave of absence (family tragedies, and health are rare exceptions) like other working professionals when the court is in session.
- In a profession that demands intellectual rigour and long working hours, vacations are needed for
- The judges utilise the vacation to write judgments, read cases etc.
- Cutting the vacation period would be a solution to pendency that is not backed by data.
The issue of pendency relates largely to legacy cases that need to be tackled systemically.
- The Justice Malimath Committee:Vacation period should be reduced by 21 days and the SC work for 206 days and HCs for 231 days every year.
- The Law Commission of India:Vacations in the higher judiciary are to be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days and the working hours should be extended by at least half an hour.
- Former CJI R M Lodha: Keep the SC, HCs and trial courtsopen around the year.
- The schedules of individual judges should be soughtat the beginning of the year, and the calendar should be planned accordingly