Chief Justice of India R M Lodha said on Friday that the Parliament and Executive should not interfere in the domain of the judiciary. “I am sure that people in judiciary, people in Executive and people in Parliament are mature enough to have mutual respect for each other and ensure that each of them is permitted to work in their sphere, unhindered by any extraneous influence,” he said.
Coming a day after Parliament passed two Bills aimed at scrapping the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, the CJI’s remarks assume significance, especially since he had voiced strong reservations against any move to tinker with the existing system earlier this week.
Addressing the Independence Day function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association here, the CJI said the framers of the Constitution had made sure that all organs of the state operate in their respective fields without encroaching on each other’s domain.
Using the opportunity to respond to criticism, largely aimed at the judiciary, for delays in the justice delivery system, CJI Lodha said while the judiciary is responsible for appointing less then 1,000 judges (of the Supreme Court and high courts), the state governments appoint 19,000 judges in lower courts. Giving a break-up, the CJI said the present collegium system appoints 906 judges of high courts and 31 of the Supreme Court.
“As head of judiciary, my heart feels pain when I find the criminal justice system has given tremendous suffering, pain, exploitation of human rights and deprivation of human liberty,” he said.
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“It is a curious and tragic paradox that prisons house more undertrials than convicts,” he said, adding that more than 50 per cent inmates in central prisons are undertrials, and in the case of district prisons the figure is more than 72 per cent.
He asked the government to consider increasing the number of judges to improve the judge-case ratio and judge-population ratio, saying the government should also provide technology tools to police, prosecution and judicial officers to speed up the justice delivery system. “Police don’t have tools and they can’t handle cyber crimes. There are deficiences in prosecution and… delay in justice delivery system,” he said.
Also speaking on the occasion, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Our government’s commitment to the sanctity and independence of judiciary is complete and we hold it very high.”
Without mentioning the two Bills passed by Parliament, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said Independence Day was not the occasion to squabble over a legislation which has been passed.