NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday became emotional in the presence of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, lamenting government’s “inaction” in raising the number of judges from 21,000 to 40,000 to handle mounting cases, saying, “you cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary”.
“Nothing moves”, an unusually emotional Thakur said, recalling a 1987 Law Commission recommendation to increase the number of judges from then 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50.
“Then comes inaction by the government as the increase (in the strength of judges) does not take place,” he said in a choked voice while addressing the inaugural session of Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts here.
“…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, who was seen wiping his eyes on three occasions, said as the prime minister heard him in rapt attention.
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 will do better in the future. Let us see how to move forward by reducing the burden of the past,” he said. 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.
Later, addressing a press conference on the day’s deliberations, the CJI admitted that being emotional is his “weakness”.
“One should not be emotional. Justice Kehar (who is likely to be the next CJI) is a strong man. He will not be emotional,” he said.
In his address, the Chief Justice 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.
The CJI also spoke of the “tug-of-war” that goes on between the Centre and the states over funding, infrastructure and other issues.
As of on Sunday, the judge to people ratio stands at 15 judges to 10 lakh people which is way less as compared to the US, Australia, the UK and Canada.
Referring to the pressures Indian judges face, Justice Thakur said from a munsif to a Supreme Court judge, the average disposal in India is 2,600 cases per annum as compared to 81 cases per annum in the US.