New Delhi: Supreme Court Chief Justice T.S. Thakur on Monday expressed his disappointment over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address on the occasion of the nation's 70th Independence Day, saying he was hoping that there would have been a mention on the appointment of additional judges in his speech.
Thakur, who hoisted the tricolour on the Supreme Court lawns, called on the Prime Minister to take action for the sake of delivering justice to the people who have great expectations from the nation's legal system.
"I was hoping that there would be talk about justice, about the appointment of judges. These days, cases are piling up and so are peoples' expectations which are making things very difficult. Which is why I have time and again made this request that attention be given to this matter as well," he said.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had accused the Narendra Modi-led government of "sitting over" judges' appointments.
The total pendency is 2.24 crores cases in various courts as of August 12, 2016. There are 478 judicial posts to be filled up in various high courts. The Supreme Court itself has three vacancies.
The apex court asserted that time has come to take judicial note of appointments and transfers, which have not been made despite the collegiums' clearance eight months ago.
Regarding the collegium, the apex court stated that 75 names of High Court judges have been cleared, but have not been approved.
"The vacancies in High Courts have increased to 43 percent when the pendency in high courts has reached to four million cases. If the government has any objection on the names, it should be sent back to the collegiums with relevant matter, but the process can't be stalled," the court observed.
The CJI sought a reply from Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi over the delay in appointment of judges as recommended by the collegium.
He said, "Don't force us to pass orders to remove the logjam."
Chief Justice Thakur also insisted that the real essence of independence must not be missed, which was freedom from poverty, better jobs, socio-economic equality and growth, adding that this challenged was before all, and whether it would be removed after 70 years.
"The population of India in 1947 was 32 crore. 10 crores people were below the poverty line. At least one-third of the population was below the poverty line. Today, India's population is 125 crores and around 40 crore people are below the poverty line. But you have drawn the poverty line in such a way that a person earning Rs. 26 in a village and a person earning Rs. 32 in a city goes above the poverty line. So, the big challenge is whether we have been able to remove poverty after 70 years," Thakur said.
Pointing to the gravity of the problem of unemployment, Justice Thakur said if he issues an order to fill a vacancy for the post of a clerk in the Supreme Court, even a post-graduate would apply.
"When I was the chief justice in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, I asked a clerk about his educational qualification. He said he had a Masters in Arts. The real essence of independence is when we get freedom from poverty and exploitation," he added.
He also lavished praise on India's development in the field of science and technology, saying after 70 years of independence we have emerged as an 'atomic power' and are on the way to becoming a 'super-power'.
"There was a time when enemies could have easily overtaken us and Pakistan was in their support, there were times when China attacked us and our army fought back wearing canvas boots. Today, we are well equipped with science and have emerged as an atomic power, and are on the way to becoming a 'super-power' and no one dares to eye our frontiers."
"We have achieved a lot, but much is yet to achieve. There was a time when we were falling short of grains and the people didn't even have a square meal and we were amongst the poor nations. In present times, we have moved ahead. Today, our yield is exported, and our stock is overwhelming," he added.
The Chief Justice of India called on his countrymen to dwell on measure as to what had been gained and what had been lost in the last 70 years.
"Today is the day of contemplation and introspection in order to protect our freedom. We need to measure, what we gained and what we lost. Did we protect our constitutional framework?" he asked.