In a rare plea, the chief justice of India’s bankruptcy appeals court asked the Supreme Court to let him work for three more days, even after his tenure was cut short by the federal government.
AIS Cheema is asking for three more days to allow him to render five verdicts and then retire, his Supreme Court lawyer said on Thursday. Cheema was, until last week, the acting chairman of the National Company Law Appeals Tribunal, which was due to retire on September 20, before the government abruptly appointed his replacement and cut his term short.
The government granted Cheema’s request after India’s Chief Justice NV Ramana questioned the fairness of the government’s decision. Cases Cheema had heard include the bankruptcy of Wind World India Ltd., which owes 47 billion rupees ($ 640 million) to lenders, according to details on the company’s website. The case passed its 270-day deadline for resolution three years ago and is expected to be reconsidered from scratch if the judge steps down without a verdict.
The case is another example of the dismay of Indian bankruptcy courts, which already face a severe shortage of judges, making it more difficult to clean up one of the biggest piles of bad debts in the world. The average time to resolve an insolvency case fell from 413 days in March 2020 to 706 days at the end of June 2021, despite the one-year moratorium imposed by the government on filing new bankruptcies during the pandemic.
Almost half of the judicial positions in bankruptcy courts across the country were vacant last month. Some 19 judges, as well as 21 technical experts, hear around 1,700 pending insolvency cases. The courts and their courts of appeal function without a full-time chairman for over a year and a half each. India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told hearings that the government is making real efforts to speed up appointments.
The federal government was “emasculating” the courts by not appointing judges, Chief Justice Ramana said last week.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)