Underlining the issue of pendency of cases in courts, President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said the judiciary is yet to fully meet people's aspirations for "speedy and affordable" justice.
Inaugurating the 150th anniversary celebration of Allahabad High Court, he said justice must be "accessible, affordable and quick" for people to understand the meaning of justice.
The President said as an upholder of the Rule of Law and enforcer of the right to liberty, the role of the judiciary was sacrosanct and the faith and confidence people have in it must be always maintained.
"Though the Indian judiciary has many strengths, it is yet to fully meet the aspirations of our people for speedy and affordable justice," he said at the sesquicentennial celebration.
Mukherjee noted that the judiciary has played an important role since India's independence in strengthening the democratic framework of the country and maintaining rule of law.
"High Courts in particular have a unique position under the Constitution of India. They are not only guardians of people's rights and liberty, they also have the onerous responsibility of ensuring that access to justice is not denied to any citizen on account of economic or any other disability," the President said.
He said judiciary which is one of the three important pillars of our democracy, is the final interpreter of the Constitution and it must help maintain social order by swiftly and effectively dealing with those on the wrong side of the law. "Our courts are today overburdened on account of number of cases pending before them. There are over three crore cases pending in various courts throughout the country. Out of these, about 38.5 lakh cases are pending in 24 High Courts. The pendency of cases in the High Courts has slightly declined from
41.5 lakh in 2014 to 38.5 lakh in 2015, but still have a long way to go," he said.
His remarks come in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement on the issue during the centenary celebrations of Patna High Court yesterday. Modi had mooted a novel idea of courts coming out with an annual bulletin to highlight the oldest cases being tried by them to help create sensitivity on pendency of cases in the country.
Expressing concern over vacancy of judges in High Courts, the President said out of a sanctioned strength of 1,056 judges in all the High Courts, the working strength of High Court judges throughout the country was only 591, as on March 1, 2016.
"The High Court at Allahabad has only 71 judges, including the Chief Justice, against the sanctioned strength of 160 judges. Approximately, 9.11 lakh cases are pending in this court as of February 2016, a decline from 10.1 lakh cases in 2014," he said. The President said the governments, judges and lawyers must work hand in hand to make justice a living reality.
"Justice delayed is justice denied. I am sure that the central and state governments will extend all support to the Allahabad High Court in its endeavour to reduce pendencies," he said.
Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice T S Thakur said judiciary as an institution was facing challenges from outside and within. "I am referring to crisis of credibility that we face today. Judges need to be conscientious of discharge of their duties, punctuality, judicial retribute and efforts to do their best is the need of the hour," he said.