The real challenge before the judiciary is to address chronic cases which remain festering in courts, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur said on Saturday even as he stressed that disposing of smaller cases was like cleaning the house of the garbage littered around.
Addressing a gathering after inaugurating the Gujarat State Judicial Academy, Justice Thakur recalled that when he was the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana, he held Lok Adalats throughout the two states and disposed of 14 lakh cases.
"But then we thought that disposing of smaller cases is like holding a broom and cleaning the house of garbage lying around. The real challenge lies in addressing chronic cases which remain festering in the courts," he said.
The CJI said, in order to address the issue, he then asked judges in the two states to provide particulars of 200 oldest civil and criminal cases.
"Once the details came in, we told them…the target now is to dispose of these oldest of cases, because to dispose ordinary, inconsequential cases is not enough. We should dispose old, chronic cases," he said, adding that to dispose them, judges were given additional weightage, by bringing them under the unit system.
"The result was that within a period of six months or so, by the time I left for Supreme Court, judicial officers had disposed of 5,500 of the oldest civil and criminal cases," he said.
During his speech, Justice Thakur expressed optimism that with the judicial fraternity being conscious of the "ever-increasing number of cases," the challenges will be overcome.
"There is an ever-increasing number of cases in the courts. But then the fact that you are conscious of it, and you are sensitive to it, and you are gearing for it, is what is encouraging. So we will overcome all the challenges and difficulties that may otherwise exist," he said.
The CJI had made an emotional appeal for appointing more judges to resolve millions of pending cases across the country while addressing a joint conference of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance in April.
Thakur, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar this morning, said, "(I) told the PM when I met him in the morning on Saturday for breakfast, that coming to Gujarat gave me such peace that once you land here, you feel you have landed in a very very peaceful place."
"And who can feel these vibrations and reverberations more than those who hold high offices? Because you know so many things get connected to the office you hold. Therefore, I would say that I am lucky to be here with you this morning, and to share my thoughts with you," he told the audience.
Talking about the judicial academy in the state, Justice Thakur said the institution will help judiciary by imparting training to those working in the field.
At the same time, he called for making optimum use of infrastructure provided by the state government, saying "if the infrastructure remains under-utilised, it would be a criminal waste of the investment that the state has made."
"You must always be conscious of the fact that the investment that has gone into the academics is by some way neglecting the state’s obligations towards equally pressing needs of the people, that is to say drinking water, basic health requirements in the rural areas," he said.
The CJI also recalled the plight of Dana Majhi, a tribal from Odisha, who had to carry his dead wife on his shoulders for 10 kilometres because of lack of facility.
"There are health conditions in the country and the basic facilities are so poor. There are demands on the public exchequer. Similarly drinking water and schools are demanded.
So when the government spares money for our infrastructure, it to an extent, neglects pressing demands of these people.
Therefore, we should be constantly trying to make the best use of the infrastructure that has been provided," he said.