It is indeed unfortute for a democracy that one of its most important wings, mely the Judiciary, should be as neglected as it has been and that the Chief Justice of India should be literally in tears rrating the woes of the Judiciary to an august audience including the Prime Minister, the chief ministers and the chief justices of our States. Addressing a joint conference of high court chief justices and chief ministers in New Delhi, Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur pulled up the government for the shortage of judges that threatens “the country’s development” and has filled jails with undertrials. Justice Thakur also cautioned that the success of the government’s “Make in India” and other economic programs hinged on the “efficiency” of the judicial system now groaning under a backlog of three crore cases. He also accused the Centre and the States of fighting a “tug of war” in shifting responsibility when it came to upgrading judicial infrastructure.
Chief Justice Thakur had every reason to be emotiol and lachrymose about the way the Judiciary had been neglected over the decades. He recalled how, way back in 1987, the government had promised to raise the judges’ strength in the country to 40,357. And yet, 29 years later the number of judges stood at just 7,875—less than a fifth of the promised number! If that is the tiol scerio, the situation in Assam is not much better either. Ten of the 24 sanctioned posts of judges for the Gauhati High Court lie vacant at present. Not surprisingly, there are 25,483 pending cases in the Gauhati High Court. In the subordite judiciary, 106 posts of judges out of the sanctioned 424, were vacant as on March 21, 2016. It will be recalled that Justice Thakur had said recently that there were 434 vacancies in the high courts, which had now reached 470. He also regretted that while the collegium (a judges-only panel) had cleared a host of candidates in the past three months, only 140 were appointed, while 169 mes were still pending with the government. “How much time does it require (to clear the mes) when we have an avalanche of cases? When people are languishing in jail over 10 years?” he wanted to know. He added, “We are inviting foreign direct investment... We want people to come and Make in India. Those we are inviting are also concerned about the ability of the judicial system to deal with the cases and issues that arise out of foreign investment. The efficacy of the judicial system is vitally connected with the development of the country.” He also made significant observations about the number of cases that judges had to handle in India and in other countries. “If you compare the performance of many of the judges with those in other countries, we are head and shoulders above (the rest),” he said. “The American Supreme Court decides 81 cases per year—nine of them sit to dispose of 81 cases in a year. The average disposal of an Indian judge is 2,600 cases per year, whether it is munsif, high court or Supreme Court judges,” he added. He said that foreign judges who came to watch the Indian judiciary at work always left the country amazed. They had every reason to be amazed, considering that India had only six judges per one million population, when Australia had 41, Cada 75, Britain 50 and the United States 107 for every million of their population. If the number of India’s judges were raised to the promised 40,357, the country would have 32 judges per one million population. Even this would be far short of the 50 judges per million population that the Law Commission had recommended in 1987.
Ours is a tion with a booming economy that pretends to be poor. The tion has funds for all kinds of expenses, legitimate and redundant, as also for a great deal of waste. But its lawmakers must go on pretending year after year, decade after decade that it is chronically hamstrung by a dearth of funds. The politics of poverty is a game that has been played ever since Independence because it suits several purposes of our lawmakers. What is indeed most paradoxical for the lawmakers is that there should be a concerted game plan to subvert the Judiciary in the same way as the Legislature and the Executive have been subverted during the last four or five decades. What has been eminently visible during the best part of the last half-a-century orchestrated denial of the basic infrastructure for the judiciary so that crime can flourish and the trial of crimes can be so delayed that resorting to crime in order to settle disputes and issues expeditiously itself becomes the expected norm regardless of what our lawmakers may choose to pretend. Such an attitude is possible only from rulers who are totally lacking in respect for people except when it is time to go seeking for votes. All the so-called support for the rule of law in a democracy is no more than a calculated pretence. Whatever else our lawmakers may be, they are not democrats. And whatever else this calculated subversion of the Judiciary may or may not achieve, there is no denying that it is cruelly anti-people. It is only rulers without an iota of normal sensibility for the sufferings of human beings who can remain uffected by the fate of under trial prisoners who have to rot in filthy, crowded jails for 10 years or more just because there are not enough judges to try the accused. Many of these under trial prisoners have later been declared innocent. They have spent a whole decade in jail merely because the judicial system lacked the required number of judges to carry out their trials in time. Is this the kind of society we wish to perpetuate within ‘the world’s largest democracy’? The government that has been asleep about the need to have the required number of judges and magistrates to deliver speedy justice must wake up and set this house in order. And there should be no need for the Chief Justice of India to weep before the Prime Minister again for this to happen.