New Delhi: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur today broke down at a meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, lamenting Government's "inaction" in increasing the number of judges from the present 21,000 to 40,000 to handle the "avalanche" of litigations, saying, "You cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary".
"Nothing has moved" since 1987 when the Law Commission had recommended increase in the number of judges from then 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50, an unusually emotional Thakur said.
Chief Justice of India TS Thakur during his speech at the inauguration of Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/PTI
"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, said as the Prime Minister heard him in rapt attention.
Modi, who was not slated to speak as per the schedule of 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.
Prime Minister,Narendra Modi with Chief Justice of India TS Thakur during the inauguration of Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/PTI
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.
It is the responsibility of all to ensure that the common man continues to have faith in the judiciary and his government will fulfil this task and will not falter in helping to make the common man's life easier, he said.
"Jab jaago tab savera" (better late than never)," Modi said, referring to the issues flagged by the CJI. 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.
As of today, the judge to people ratio stands at 15 judges to 10 lakh people which is way less than as compared to the US, Australia, the UK and Canada. The CJI also spoke of the "tug-of-war" that goes on between the Centre and the states over funding, infrastructure and other issues.