Hyderabad, April 9 (IANS): Chief Justice of India Justice TS Thakur said today the process of appointing judges must go on while improving the system, as the delay in appointments will deprive people of their fundamental right of access to justice.
He said 130 names recommended from various high courts are in the process with the Law Ministry.
"I am sure the Law Minister is going to process those because he realizes that while we are open to improvement of whatever the procedural angle is, the process of appointments must go on because access to justice is something which has been recognized by the Supreme Court as fundamental.
"It is fundamental right of a citizen to access justice and if you are not to appoint judges you are actually depriving people of their fundamental right that is something which is totally unacceptable," said the Chief Justice while inaugurating 14th All India Meet of State Legal Services Authorities here.
Minister of Law and Justice DV Sadananda Gowda was also present on the occasion.
The Chief Justice's remarks come amid reports that names recommended by the collegium headed by him, has been held up following difference of opinion between the government and the collegium over a contentious clause in the Memorandum of Procedure for selection of judges. The clause gives the government the final say in rejecting a name recommended by the collegium if it is in the "national interest".
Stating that the judicial system is under great pressure and it is also realized by the government, Justice Thakur pointed out that there are 450 vacancies in the high courts and there will be another 50 vacancies this year.
He noted that process of appointment got delayed as the constitutional amendment came under challenge.
"After the matter was resolved the Law Minister realizing that the process of amendment of the Memorandum of Procedure may take time, wrote a letter to me that the government is willing for the process to be resumed on the basis of the earlier procedure. We immediately agreed and within a period of four to six weeks cleared nearly 163 names that were stuck for more than a year with us because of the controversy regarding the Judicial Commission," he said.
The Chief Justice said out of those recommendations, about 90 appointments as permanent judges and about 40 appointments as fresh appointments to high court have already come through and others are in the pipeline.
Last year, the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act but agreed for framing of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) by the Centre in consultation with the apex court collegium.
Justice Thakur, who is patron-in-chief of National Legal Services Authority (NLSA), said the State Legal Services Authorities were making access to justice a reality. "Over a period of one year, we have decided 62 lakh pending cases by Lok Adalats, mediation and so on and 1.61 crore pre-litigation cases which were potential cases that could have landed in courts," he said.
Terming it as a great service, the Chief Justice said this relieved the judicial system of the burden. "If we were to wind up activities, the effect will be 2.20 crore cases would have reached courts. The courts would be chocked. Already we are told that we have three crore cases pending," he added.