When Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur broke down before Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently, seeking immediate intervention to fill the vacancies of judges, surely Uttar Pradesh must have been high on his mind.
Or so it appears, as the state battles an unprecedented number of vacancies of judges in the Allahabad High Court and a long and painful backlog of cases, some dragging on for decades. Thakur, who was in the state capital for inaugurating the new and sprawling building of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court some time back, sources say, was given an earful on the subject by judicial officials.
Many feel the data and statistics they shared with the CJI must have surely weighed on his mind when he made that emotive speech at that high-profile event in New Delhi on Sunday. The statistics are, indeed, both an eye opener and a saddening commentary on the prevailing situation. Of the sanctioned 160 posts of high court judges in the state, a staggering 82 are vacant.
Hence, the pending cases before the Allahabad High Court over the past three years have hovered around 900,000 every year. The pendency on January 1, 2014, was 970,000 and is now at 913,000.
The situation in lower courts is even more frightening - 5.09 million, of which 3.82 million are criminal cases and the remaining civil and other cases.
Justice Haider Abbas Raza, who has retired from the Allahabad High Court, laments at the situation and says that it was unfortunate that “cases linger on so much for want of judges”.
“Criminals not only brazenly flout laws but also breed contempt for the judicial system,” says Kanpur-based lawyer Sheel Srivastava, adding: “The situation warrants speedy trials and filling up of vacancies so that the faith of the common man in the system is restored.”
At the high court inaugural, Governor Ram Naik, in fact, told the august gathering of judges that unless vacancies are filled at the earliest, justice delayed would mean justice denied.
More than 1.64 million cases have been hanging in the balance for five-ten years in UP’s courts, while the number of cases pending for more than a decade stands at a staggering 655,000, official figures show.
With every passing day, the system is being seen by people seeking justice as an instrument of delay rather than of justice. Actor Sunny Deol’s famous one-liner - “Tareek pe Tareek, Tareek pe tareek” (Date after date), sure found an echo in Uttar Pradesh!