Reiterating the need for more judges in India, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur at the first conference of judicial officers in Chhattisgarh said, that “we may keep on inviting foreign direct investment and raising slogans about progress” but it is essential that the judicial system also improve to deal with disputes arising from this progress.
“Today, there are only 18,000 judges in the country and we have a huge backlog of 3 crore cases in subordinate courts. I have been talking about it, in public platforms, in the presence of the Prime Minister, and made a very passionate appeal that this is a great challenge that the Indian judiciary faces. Not only the judiciary but the entire country faces, because we may keep on inviting foreign direct investment, we may keep on raising slogans about how the country is progressing but the judicial system also needs to improve to deal with disputes that will arise out of this progress.”
Going back in history, Thakur said that in 1987 the Law Commission had recommended an induction of 40,000 judges in the judicial system, however, thirty years down the line, instead of progressing to 40,000, the system currently holds 18,000 judges.
Stressing on the need for more judges, CJI said, “The per capita litigation in the country is dependent on literacy and prosperity. And literacy particularly… So the more aware the public about their rights, the greater the litigation in courts. So as literacy is increasing, and prosperity increases, the capacity of the people to go to courts increases.”
“There are different methods for determining what is the judge strength required in the country. One is the judge-population ratio. in America, for every million, there are 150 judges. In India, for one million, we have 12 judges. There were some judgments by the Supreme Court which said increase this ratio from 12 per million to 50 per million in the first instance. Court said do it not immediately, but over a period of five years. Those five years have now gone, another five years have rolled by. We have not been able to take the ratio beyond 12 per million. We are stagnating there,” said Justice Thakur.
Talking about the consequences of the system, he said that it was not the fault of the officers that they were so few in number. But if the situation does not improve, a backlog of 3 crore cases could turn into 5 crore in the next 15 years. Addressing the judicial officers, Thakur said that he was sending a report to the Prime Minister for accelerating the process of increasing judges in the system.
“They (the higher judiciary) should realize that when judicial officers are invited to share their ideas with higher officers, higher judges, the higher courts, it helps the system. It inspires the judicial officers. It removes bottlenecks. It creates an atmosphere in which the distance between the district judiciary and the higher judiciary gets removed. This realisation should have been there among successive Chief Justices that held this august office and this process should have started long back (of conferences with judicial officers). That Justice Gupta has started is creditable..not only in Chhattisgarh but in other places too, these conferences should go on. The problem is that our system is so Chief Justice-centric that if you have a dynamic chief justice, things move. If you have a Chief Justice who is laidback, who is only content with his courtroom and nothing beyond, things don’t move,” Thakur said.