NEW DELHI: Making an emotional appeal before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said it is the need of the hour to increase the number of posts in the judiciary to handle the existing 3.2 crore cases and added that the government should also help the judiciary overcome the challenges it faces and not deny the poor man and undertrial prisoners their due of justice.
While addressing the inaugural session of Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts, CJI Thakur said, “When the apex court came into being in 1950, it had a strength of eight judges, including the CJI with 1,215 cases pending. The pendency then was 100 cases per judge. In 1960, the strength rose to 14 judges and the cases also increased to 3,247. In 1977, the strength was 18 and the cases were 14,501. By 2009, as is the case today, the strength rose to 31 and the pending cases spiralled by 77,181. In 2014, the cases were 81,582, which were reduced to 60,260.” He said there were 434 judicial vacancies in HCs as on date and that a proposal for 169 judges was pending with the government.
The CJI asked what’s the point of ‘Make in India’ and inviting FDI when investors are doubtful about the timely delivery of justice.
“Not only in the name of the poor litigant languishing in jail but also in the name of the country and progress, I beseech you to realise that it is not enough to criticise the judiciary, you cannot shift the entire burden to the judiciary,” he said in an unprecedented criticism of the Centre.
Chief Justice of India T S Thakur referred to how the Law Commission in 1987 had recommended 40,000 judges in the country to tide over the problem of pendency of that time and said, “There were only 10 judges to a million population when there should be at least 50 judges per 10 lakh population. Population has increased by over 25 crore since 1987 and the only solution to this extraordinary situation was to bring back proven judges from retirement in a bid to dispose of cases which are more than five years old.”
He said there are 434 judicial vacancies in the High Courts waiting to be filled up as of date. He also added that proposal of 169 judges is pending with the government.
Modi, who was not scheduled to speak as per the programme circulated by the Law Ministry, said, “I can understand his (CJI’s) pain as a lot of time has lapsed since 1987. Whatever has been the compulsions, but its better to be late than never. We’ll do better in the future. Let us see how to move forward.”
He 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.
Modi also recalled that in one such conference he had attended as the Gujarat Chief Minister, he had flagged the issue of reducing vacation in courts and holding morning and evening courts but during lunch break during that event he was in for trouble as some judges had questioned the idea.
Law Minister appreciated the idea of having Chief Justices of High Courts and the Chief Ministers interaction must in order to resolve the issues relating to infrastructure and manpower needs and facilities for the judiciary.