New Delhi: Chief Justice of India TS Thakur expressed disappointment on Monday over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s not mentioning the crisis of stalled judicial appointments in his Independence Day address, highlighting an issue that he believes is crippling the courts.
Speaking at an Independence Day celebration organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Thakur urged the government to pay attention to the judiciary, days after he threatened to pass orders if the Centre didn’t clear the logjam soon.
“I was hoping he (Modi) will speak about issues plaguing the justice delivery system. However, he did not. I request the government to pay attention to our judiciary, especially appointment of judges,” the CJI said.
His remarks came after law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad assured the gathering that the government was committed to “the cause of judicial independence.” “Our government is led by senior ministers who fought against emergency. Our government feels that effective judicial delivery is integral to good governance and appointment is part of it,” Prasad said. He promised to quicken the process and hoped the SC collegium will work as a team.
But Thakur appeared unimpressed, saying if the government remained stubborn, so would the judiciary. “During the British era, a verdict in a case used to come out in 10 years. However, today, even 100 years are not enough due to a lack of numbers of judges,” the CJI said.
”People’s aspirations are increasing and a large number of cases is being filed. But, there are no judges.” On Friday, Thakur had lashed out at the government for allegedly stalling high court judges’ appointment. “If this logjam goes on, we’ll be forced to judicially interfere with the government. We will ask for every file sent to you by the collegiums. You have logjammed the entire process,” Thakur told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi.
India’s 24 high courts have nearly four million cases pending before them while another 30 million cases clog trial courts. But clearing this backlog is considered virtually impossible with the current strength of judges –in the high courts, 478 posts out a sanctioned strength of 1,056 remain vacant.
Even in India’s top court that was originally set up in 1951 to oversee 1,215 cases by eight judges, now 31 judges have to decide on a staggering 60,000 cases annually. The CJI has said in the past that the country needed to double the number of judges from its current strength of 21,000.