Shortage of judges leaves CJI misty-eyed
A teary- eyed Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday lamented “inaction” by the Executive to increase the number of judges from the present 21,000 to 40,000 to handle the “avalanche” of litigations even as country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured him of his government’s resolve in finding a solution jointly with the judiciary.
“...And therefore, it is not only in the name of a litigant or people languishing in jails but also in the name of development of the country, its progress that I beseech you to rise to the occasion and realise that it is not enough to criticise. You cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary,” the Chief Justice of India said in a choking voice.
Addressing the inaugural session of Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts, Justice Thakur said that since 1987, when the Law Commission had recommended increase in the number of judges from then 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50, “nothing has moved”.
“Then comes inaction by the government as the increase (in the strength of judges) does not take place,” he said.
He said following the Law Commission’s recommendation, the Supreme Court in 2002 had also supported increasing the strength of the judiciary. A Parliamentary Department Related Standing Committee on Law then headed by Pranab Mukherjee had also recommended taking the judge to people ratio to 50 from 10.
As of Sunday, the judge to people ratio stands at 15 judges to 10 lakh people which is way less than as compared to the US, Australia, the UK and Canada.
Modi, who was not slated to speak as per the schedule of the programme circulated by the Law Ministry, said if constitutional barriers do not create any problems, then top ministers and senior Supreme Court judges can sit together in a closed room to find a solution to the issue.
The Prime Minister also said that it is the responsibility of all to ensure that the common man continues to have faith in the judiciary and his government will fulfil the responsibility and will not falter in helping to make the common man’s life easier.
“Jab jaago tab savera” (better late than never),” Modi said, referring to the issues flagged by Justice Thakur. “I can understand his pain as a lot of time has lapsed since 1987. Whatever has been the compulsions, but its better to be late than never. We will do better in the future. Let us see how to move forward by reducing the burden of the past,” he said.
Referring to the pendency of cases, Justice Thakur said the high courts have over 38 lakh cases to dispose of and the number is increasing.