Judicial Reforms

Debating the Abolition of Judicial Vacations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Judicial Vacations

Mains level: Issues with Judicial Vacations

Central Idea

  • The longstanding tradition of judicial vacations in India has come under scrutiny as a parliamentary committee.
  • Recent remarks by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud reignited discussions on the allocation of vacation days to Indian judges, shedding light on the intricate dynamics of judicial work patterns and the rationale behind vacation allotments.

Vacation in Judiciary

  • Judicial Workdays: The Supreme Court has 193 working days annually, High Courts function around 210 days, and trial courts operate for 245 days. High Courts possess the authority to structure their calendars as per service rules.
  • Long-standing Practice: The practice of vacations, particularly the extensive 7-week (formerly 10-week) summer recess, has its origins in colonial times.

Understanding Vacation Benches

  • Composition and Role: The CJI appoints a Vacation Bench, a specialized court that operates during the Supreme Court’s summer and winter breaks. Although the court is not fully closed during vacations, this bench handles cases deemed “urgent matters.”
  • Urgent Cases: While there is no explicit definition for “urgent matters,” the Vacation Bench typically entertains writs associated with habeas corpus, certiorari, prohibition, and quo warranto, all related to enforcing fundamental rights.
  • Rule 6 of Order II of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013: Under this rule, the CJI nominates Division Benches for urgent miscellaneous and regular hearing matters during the summer vacation period. The rule allows for the appointment of judges to hear urgent cases individually or in a Division Court.

Historical Significance and Notable Cases:

  • Impactful Decisions: Vacation Benches have delivered significant judgments in the past. A well-known instance is when a Vacation Bench Judge refused PM Indira Gandhi’s plea to stay an Allahabad High Court decision in 1975, which led to the Emergency declaration.
  • Triple Talaq Case: In 2017, a Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court heard the triple talaq case during vacation days.

Debates and Arguments Surrounding Vacation Benches

[A] Arguments in Favor:

  • Judicial Rejuvenation: Advocates emphasize the need for vacation periods to provide judges with mental and physical rejuvenation.
  • Extended Work Hours: Considering the demanding nature of judicial work, proponents assert that the long working hours necessitate periodic breaks.
  • Writing Judgments: Judges use vacation time to draft judgments, contributing to the timely disposal of cases.

[B] Arguments Against:

  • Pendency and Delays: Critics argue that the extended and frequent vacations exacerbate the backlog of cases and contribute to the slow pace of justice delivery.
  • Inconvenience to Litigants: For litigants, vacations translate to additional delays in case hearings.

Calls for Reform

  • Malimath Committee (2000): The committee proposed reducing vacation periods by 21 days, advocating for the Supreme Court to operate for 206 days and High Courts for 231 days annually.
  • Law Commission of India (2009): The commission recommended curtailing vacations by 10-15 days and extending court working hours to address the substantial backlog of cases.
  • Supreme Court’s 2014 Rule Change: The Supreme Court truncated the summer vacation period from 10 weeks to seven weeks.
  • RM Lodha Commission (2014): It suggested that individual judges should take leave at different times throughout the year instead of having all judges on vacation at once.

Proposed Approach and Suggested Changes

  • Continuous Operation: The 133rd committee supports the notion that individual judges should take their leave at different intervals, thereby ensuring that the courts remain open throughout the year.
  • Redefined Judicial Vacations: The parliamentary report calls for a reevaluation of the traditional concept of vacations, advocating for a more modern and efficient approach to court operation.
  • Comparison with Other Countries: The report suggests that the vacation practices of the Supreme Court and High Courts should be reviewed in comparison to other countries’ higher courts and constitutional institutions.


  • The debate surrounding the abolition of judicial vacations in India emphasizes the necessity for a dynamic and effective approach to court operations.
  • While the tradition has historical significance, the current judicial landscape calls for a re-evaluation of practices to ensure efficient functioning, address the backlog of cases, and minimize inconveniences to litigants.

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