Oh, poor litigant, people languishing in jails.” His voice trembled a little. “In the name of development and progress, I beseech you,” he looked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “to rise to the occasion and realise that it’s not enough to c-r-i-t-i-c-i-s-e.” The sentence trailed off, pauses between words got longer. Heads jerked up and eyes widened. It was the sound of a man struggling to keep his voice from betraying his feelings. But it wasn’t just any man. The 43rd Chief Justice of India, Tirath Singh Thakur, stood on stage, jaws tight, eyes averted, reaching into his pocket for a handkerchief to mop his eyes. The silence inside Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan on April 25 was absolute, people exchanged glances in shock and dismay. The prime minister looked on intently from his seat on the stage.
It actually took all of 37 minutes and four seconds for the CJI to force the nation to sit up and pay attention. Exactly the time in which judges around the country conclude 15 hearings and decide seven cases, on average. That’s because judges in the busiest courts spend an average of 2.5 minutes to hear a case and about five minutes to decide one (see following story). Not because our judges are in a hurry. But because they can hardly devote more time to a case, such is the shortfall of judges in the country. As mentioned in the Lok Sabha on March 3, 2016, 44 per cent judges are missing in high courts, 25 per cent in