New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Justice H.L. Dattu on Sunday sought to play down the controversy over holding of the high court chief justices' conference on Good Friday, saying it was an internal "family matter" and would be settled.
Describing as "unfortunate" the raising of the issue by Justice Kurian Joseph, Chief Justice Dattu told media persons: "I am the head of the family, and in our family one member has questioned me. We will settle it ourselves and it should not go outside the family."
Justice Joseph had raised objections to the Chief Justice of India holding the chief justices' conference on Good Friday and had even written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.
Later, addressing media persons along with Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Chief Justice Dattu said they have decided that the trial of criminal cases should be completed in five years' time.
"We have taken a decision to try our best that no case is pending before the trial court for more than five years," Chief Justice Dattu said.
On a query about Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the judiciary to put in place a mechanism to address its problems and for self-assessment, the Chief Justice of India said they have such a mechanism and it was working.
"We have that in-house mechanism in place which is effectively working," he said.
Replying to a query as to why hearing on the December 16, 2012 gang rape case was pending, Chief Justice Dattu said there were 23 death reference cases before the court, and at present they were hearing cases that came up in 2012.
He said the December 16 gang rape case would be taken up when its turn comes.
"We have 23 death reference cases. Cases will go year-wise. Old cases will be heard first. At present, we are hearing cases of 2012. This matter will take time. This matter will be settled earliest (when it comes for hearing). We give preference to death sentence cases only when there is a specific request."
Describing the conference of the chief justices of the high courts as an "in-house meeting", Chief Justice Dattu said he has been asked to constitute a committee of apex court judges that will advise him on the "way, method and procedure to be adopted for the selection of judges to higher judiciary".
He said the committee will also spell the uniform policy for the selection process for the appointment of judges in subordinate judiciary.
The chief justice, during the press conference, touched upon several issues, including pendency of cases, the unfavourable judge-population ratio, misperception that judges of the apex court worked only 190 days a year, whether the morning and evening courts should be continued or not among others.
He said the general impression was that morning and evening courts did not "receive expected response from the litigants and the continuation of morning and evening courts may not be necessary in the future".
Chief Justice Dattu said it has been decided that the chief ministers and the chief justices of the high courts would discuss the outstanding problems facing the judiciary and mutually resolve them.
Trying to erase the impression that judges in higher judiciary were working for just 190 days in a year, Chief Justice Dattu said that in those "190 days they work 24X7 and in the remaining days in the year, they do their homework regarding the court cases and write judgment and no time is spent with the family".