Cuttack: Continuing to express concern over low judge-population ratio in the country, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur today said access to justice was a fundamental right and governments cannot afford to deny it to the people.
After an emotional outburst over the issue in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a conference in New Delhi recently, the CJI once again raised the matter while addressing a large gathering of legal luminaries here on the occasion of centennial celebrations of the circuit bench of the High Court.
“While we (judiciary) remain keen to ensure that judges’ appointments are made quickly, the machinery involved with the appointment of judges continue to grind very slowly,” Justice Thakur said, adding around 170 proposals for appointment of HC judges were now pending with the government.
Noting that the matter was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister recently with a plea to make the appointments quickly, he said people cannot be denied justice.
“Access to justice is a fundamental right and the government cannot afford to deny the people their fundamental right,” he said.
Shortage of judges is one of the formidable challenges the judiciary is facing in the country now, the CJI said adding, out of some 900 sanctioned posts of judges in different High Courts of the country, there are over 450 vacancies which need to be filled up immediately.
Dwelling on the poor judge-population ratio, Justice Thakur said while the Law Commission of India in 1987 had suggested for having 44,000 judges to effectively tackle the then number of pending cases, the country today has only 18,000 judges.
“Thirty years down the line we continue to work with depleted strength. If you go by the number of people that have been added to the population, we may now require more than 70,000 judges to clear the pending cases,” he said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who was present as one of the guests of honour on the occasion, said his government was providing adequate financial support for improving the judicial infrastructure in the state.
“We are committed to the overall strengthening and development of justice delivery system in Odisha,” Patnaik said.
Emphasising on “mutual respectability”, the other guest of honour Justice Dipak Misra of the Supreme Court said the Orissa High Court has a glorious past and everybody must strive to live up to it.
At least ten judges of the Supreme Court and several judges of Calcutta, Patna and Jharkhand High Courts are participating in the centennial celebrations, which will continue for a week with seminars, conferences and cultural programmes lined up for the occasion.