India’s ailing judicial system awaits more judges
India has only 20 judges per million population.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to increase the strength of judges and raise the retirement age of high court judges to 65 years.
The CJI, who wrote three letters to the PM, said there was a pendency of 58,669 cases in the top court and the number was increasing due to filing of more fresh cases.
Three years ago, the same concern was echoed by the then CJI TS Thakur. He appeared to be most vexed about India’s overworked judiciary and bemoaned that the common man's faith in the justice system was at an all-time low—so much so that he broke down in front of the PM.
How few are we talking about
The Law Commission of India, in its 120th report recommended that the strength of judges per one million population should be increased from 10.5 to 50 judges.
However, the judge-population ratio in the country works out to be only 20 judges per 10 lakh people in the country. Oh, one more thing. The population is calculated based on Census 2011 data. Add eight years of 1.2 per cent average annual growth rate to that, and you’ll be shocked.
Also, just to offer you a perspective: there are 107 judges per million people in the US, and 51 per million people in the UK.
Justice delayed is justice denied
The Supreme Court, which recently attained its full strength of 31 judges after more than a decade, has 26 cases pending for 25 years, 100 cases for 20 years, 593 cases for 15 years and 4,977 cases for 10 years.
The CJI underlined that the SC’s inability to tackle the spiralling pendency was because of the inadequate strength of judges.
He also said that inadequate number of SC judges prevents him from constituting the required number of five-judge constitution benches to adjudicate cases involving substantial questions of law or interpretation of constitutional provisions.
"You would recall that way back in 1988, about three decades ago, the judge strength of the SC was increased from 18 to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution," he wrote.
What about the High Courts?
The sanctioned strength of judges of high courts has increased from 906 judges in June 2014 to 1,079 judges in December, 2018. However, the working strength of judges in high courts is only 673.
“At present, 399 posts, or 37 per cent of sanctioned judge-strength, are vacant. The existing vacancies need to be filled immediately,” Gogoi wrote.
With over 43 lakh cases pending in the 24 HCs alone, the CJI urged Modi to consider bringing a constitutional amendment to increase the retirement age of high court judges from 62 to 65 years.