WELCOME ADDRESS ON LAW DAY
by Vijay Hansaria+
Cite as : (2005) 2 SCC (Jour) 19
Hon'ble Mr Justice R.C. Lahoti, the Chief Justice of India, Hon'ble Shri H.R. Bhardwaj, Minister for Law and Justice, Hon'ble Shri K. Venkatapathy, Minister of State for Law and Justice, Shri Goolan E. Vahanvati, Solicitor General of India, Shri P.H. Parekh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association, Ms Pareena Swarup, Secretary, Supreme Court Bar Association, Hon'ble Judges (both sitting and retired) of the Supreme Court, other dignitaries, colleagues and friends,
It is my privilege to welcome this august gathering on the Silver Jubilee Celebration of "Law Day" by the Supreme Court Bar Association. We started celebrating this day from 26-11-1979 as "Law Day", to pay tributes to the 207 eminent members of the Constituent Assembly, whom we call our Founding Fathers in great reverence, for handing over to us the Constitution of India, which is governing us since the last 54 years, and I say quite successfully. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on 9-12-1946 which continued for 2 years 11 months and 17 days i.e. up to 26-11-1949 during which 165 sittings were held and after in-depth deliberation, this solemn document was given to us. In honour of our Founding Fathers, I bow down on behalf of myself and on behalf of each member of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
On this day, we do self-introspectionfocusing on the achievements made and the problems faced. Perhaps we have been projecting more on the shortcomings of our justice-delivery system while forgetting the achievements.
According to me, our achievements are no less than our shortcomings. We have a sanctioned strength of 26 judges in the Apex Court, 668 judges in the 21 High Courts and approximately 13,000 in the subordinate courts. Approximately 1.60 crore cases filed every year in various courts out of which about 1.45 crore cases are annually disposed of by about 13,700 judges i.e. at the rate of 1050 cases per judge per year. I do not think judges in any other country of the world decide such large number of cases. This is commendable work. This also shows the tremendous faith the people of this country have in the judicial system. For doing this tremendous task, I think each member of the judicial fraternity deserves big applause and high appreciations.
Now some aspects on the negative side. Delayed disposal of cases is perhaps the most important problem. We have pendency of about 2 crore cases in the subordinate courts, 35 lakh cases in the High Court and about 26,000 cases in the Supreme Court. Many cases drag on for decades. The undertrials outnumber the convicts in the jails and many a times undertrials undergo imprisonment beyond the maximum period for which they can be punished. This needs to be addressed very seriously to retain the faith in the system, and regain, wherever lost. In our country, judge population ratio is 10.5 judges per million people whereas in Australia this figure is 47, in UK 50, in Canada 75 and in USA 107. One important remedy is to increase the judge population from 10.5 per million. As per the Supreme Court judgment in All India Judges' Assn. case1 delivered on 21-3-2002, the judge population ratio must be increased to 50 million within 5 years. Apart from increasing the strength, the vacancies wherever occur must be filled immediately. At present there are 145 vacancies in the High Court which need to be filled immediately. According to a study made by the Law Commission of India, to dispose of arrears in 5 years, we need 300 additional judges in the High Courts and about 65,000 judges in the subordinate courts.
In the Tenth Five Year Plan (for the period 2002 to 2007) only .078% i.e. less than .1% of the total plan expenditure of the Central Government is allocated to the judiciary. The position in the States is no better. I request the Hon'ble Law Minister, who is always keen to improve the justice-delivery system, to impress upon the Finance Minister, who is also member of our Bar, to allocate sufficient funds for creation of additional courts with all infrastructure facilities especially in the subordinate judiciary.
One thing more, apart from the Supreme Court Bar Association, it is only the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court which has been celebrating "Law Day" since the last 3 years. Globally it is only in the US that Law Day is celebrated on 1st May, since 1958 to strengthen the heritage of liberty, justice and equality under the law. I appeal to all the Bar Associations of the country to celebrate 26th November as Law Day in their respective courts and do self-introspection, highlight their achievement and find solution for the shortcomings.
I once again welcome all the honourable guests on the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Law Day on behalf of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
+ Vice President, Supreme Court Bar Association.
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1 All India Judges' Assn. v. Union of India, (2002) 4 SCC 247 Return to Text