Chief Justice Thakur again laments shortage of judges

Continuing to express concern over low ratio of judges to population in the country, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Sunday 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 the 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 in Cuttack on the occasion of the centennial celebrations of the circuit bench of the High Court.

''While we (the judiciary) remain keen to ensure that judges' appointments are made quickly, the machinery involved continues to grind very slowly,'' Thakur said, adding around 170 proposals for appointment of high court 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.