New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI): Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on Sunday lamented the executive's inaction in at least doubling the number of judges to handle the ”avalanche” of litigations, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assure him of the government's resolve in finding a solution jointly with the judiciary.
”...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 million people to 50 per million, “nothing has moved”, but the population has gone up by 250 million
As of today, the judge to people ratio stands at 15 judges per million, which is way less than the ratios in the US, Australia, the UK and Canada.
”In 1987, the requirement was 40,000 judges. From 1987 till now, we have added 25 crore in terms of population. We have grown into one of the fastest growing economies of the world, we are inviting foreign direct investment into the country, we want people to come and make in India, we want people to come and invest in India," he noted.
”Those whom we are inviting are also concerned about the ability of the judicial system in the country to deal with cases and disputes that arise out of such investments. Efficacy of the judicial system is so vitally connected with the development,” he said, referring to Modi government's 'Make in India' and 'Ease of doing business' campaigns.
Modi, who was not slated to speak according to the programme schedule 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 it's 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.
On the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act which sought to scrap the collegium system under which judges appoint judges of higher courts, he said as the “controversy” was in the Supreme Court, the vacancies kept on increasing. The law was struck down by the apex court following which the collegium system made a comeback.
Justice Thakur said the collegium has now cleared all proposals sent to it in six weeks. While 145 judges were either elevated as permanent judges in the high courts or were appointed as additional judges, 169 proposals were still pending with the government, he said.
”How much time does it require when there is an avalanche of cases,” he said.
The CJI said half recommendations made by the high courts were rejected by the collegium as “we have raised the bar”.
According to latest Law Ministry figures, the approved strength of the subordinate judiciary is 20214 with 4580 vacancies. The approved strength of the 24 high courts is 1056 and the vacancy was pegged at 458 as on March one.
In the apex court, there are six vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 31 judges, including the CJI.