Chief Justice of India T S Thakur today lauded the "exemplary performance" of judiciary in the country and said the huge pendency of cases was due to increasing litigations, as he pitched for raising the strength of judges.
"National average which is I think around 650 cases per judge at the high court level. Performance of judges in India is exemplary, is very very commendable. Backlog is not because judges are not working," he said at a function here.
He said "the number of cases that are coming before us is so large... We are deciding more than judges in other countries decide."
His remarks come days after the Union Law Ministry had said in a note that shortage of judges was not the "sole reason" for increasing pendency of cases and cited data of states like Delhi and Gujarat which are struggling to dispose of cases despite a higher judge-population ratio.
The CJI had in April last lamented "inaction" by the Executive to increase the number of judges to handle the "avalanche" of litigations.
In his address here today, Justice Thakur also said the judiciary was not looking at any particular number and was ready to discuss and evolve a mechanism for increasing its strength.
"We are not looking at any particular number (of judges) such as 40,000, 50,000. We are saying let us sit across the table, let us evolve the reasonable number and then evolve a mechanism and roll out a plan...."
"Government has its views. Government also keeps examining the issue and there is a continuous debate. I only wish that that this debate ends and we agree on a certain number, there is a roll out," he said.
Justice Thakur said he had prepared a report analysing various factors such as judges-case or judges-population ratios and would send it to the government.
The essence of the report was that the number of judges must be increased in order to ensure that the backlog was reduced, he said adding the pile-up was not because judges were not working but due to filing of large number of cases.
Referring to the Law commission's report in 1987 which suggested that there be 40,000 judges, he said the strength today was only 18,000 though the population and number of litigations had gone up manifold.
Justice Thakur was delivering a special address on Mediation Awareness Programme arranged by Tamil Nadu Mediation and reconciliation centre and Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy.
Justice Thakur also said a majority of the three crore
pending cases in the country are accounted for by eight major states, including Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra.
These states accounted for 80 per cent of the population in the country and naturally pendency would be high for them, he said.
Stressing the need for frequent interactions between the lower and higher judiciary, he said the meetings should not be restricted only to Legal Services but cover other issues such as infrastructure and staff.
On the issue of mediation, the CJI said the real challenge for the lower judiciary was to identify the cases which have to be recommended to the alternative dispute redressal (ADR) centres.
Stating that there were complaints from the mediation centres that even though they have trained mediators and other infrastructure they did not get cases to settle, Justice Thakur said it was the duty of the lower judiciary to identify the cases which can be referred to ADR Centres.
This would reduce the burden on the judiciary and also bring down the backlog besides helping the litigant to get relief, the CJI said adding training programmes such as the one held here today would help in achieving better results.
Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh, Chairman of Tamil Nadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre, was among those present.