The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Thursday to respond to a PIL seeking a direction to the government to double the number of judges as per the Law Commission’s recommendations.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur issued the notice to the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Finance on the petition filed by advocate Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay who said the government must implement the resolution of the advisory council of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms.
Upadhyay has cited the abysmal judge-population ratio in the country to highlight the stress on judiciary that is struggling to clear more than 300 million cases. The caseload was “abnormal and unrealistic” for the courts to deal with it, he said.
India has about 17,000 judges against a sanctioned strength of 21,000. The law commission had in 1987 recommended increasing the number to 40,000 from 10.5 judges to 50 judges for one million people. Countries such as the US, England, Canada and Australia had judge-population ratios of 107, 50.9, 75.2 and 41.5 way back in the 1980s.
Last week, the CJI had said that India needed 70,000 judges to clear judicial backlog. Blaming successive governments for not increasing the number of judges to handle litigation explosion, the CJI broke down last month at a conference attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Not only in the name of litigants and people languishing in jails but also in the name of the development of the country and its progress, I beseech you to rise to the occasion and realise that it is not sufficient to criticise,” the CJI said.
The Prime Minister had quickly intervened and promised to find a solution.
“Every accused is entitled to fair trail and speedy justice. Unexplained and inordinate delay of the trial for no fault of the accused is clearly a violation of the Article 21 (guarantees life and liberty). Expeditious trial is a basic right of every accused, which cannot be trampled upon unless it can be shown that the accused itself is responsible for the delay,” the petition read.
Fair trial and speedy justice is a component of personal liberty and it is taken away if the procedure is void. Less number of judges leads to inordinate delay in trial and this violates a person’s right to life and liberty, Upadhyay said in his petition.
Increase in the number of judges will prevent undue and oppressive incarceration prior to the trial. “People’s faith in judicial system could not be maintained without providing fair trial and speedy justice uniformly to all the Indian citizens,” the PIL said.
Referring to various Law Commission reports, Upadhyay said the Centre must implement the resolution passed in the 2013 chief ministers and chief justices conference to increase the number of judges.