One of the central themes in our scriptures is universal justice. Simply speaking, it means the state must accord fair treatment to each and every individual or group living in its territory. Our scriptures warn against culpable delay in the dispensation of justice and treat it as an act of injustice. In tune with this conventional wisdom, the constitution of modern India commands our state to secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice. It also directs the State to provide speedy justice to all.

Our constitution directs: “The state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.”

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Regrettably, our successive governments have cared little to honor such constitutional commandments. They have not put in place an appropriate judicial network for our hugely populous nation. This has resulted in an astronomical number of legal cases lying since long in our various courts.


Ironically, our political leadership does not seem to be serious even about letting our existing judicial infrastructure operate.

Knowledgeable sources say the executive avoids making timely judicial appointments. In our Supreme Court, the vacancies for judges will soon be going  up to seven, reducing the number of judges in the apex body to 24.  The posts of Chief Justice in seven High Courts have been lying vacant for the past several months. There are a total of 403 judicial vacancies in different High Courts.

In a recent judgement our Supreme Court has observed the government has been delaying the appointment of judges to high courts.

Sometimes, our high courts do not send fresh names to the Government for vetting a month prior to an anticipated vacancy. They do so late or do not do it at all. Sometimes, these courts send fresh names. But the files are kept pending at the executive desk for long before being sent over to the Supreme Court Collegium for their approval.

The court said, “Even after the clearance of the names by the Collegium, these remain pending at the level of the executive. All this results in inordinate delay. Sometimes, it takes more than one year to complete the process from the date of forwarding the names till appointment.”

I wonder why our apex court must not warn the government against delay in filling in the sanctioned judicial posts. In our constitution, there is a well-defined mechanism of the separation of powers among the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It is accompanied by the principle of checks and balances. Our judiciary can always restrain the executive from proceeding with its approach of delay in the sphere of  justice.

Pertinently, our apex court must direct the government to comply with the constitution in all its dimensions of justice – particularly, social and economic. Ironically, many of our laws are still feudal-colonial. They are absolutely antithetical to justice in democracy. They must go. The apex court has already rightly held our law must necessarily be just, fair and reasonable. It has rightly propounded the basic structure of our Constitution cannot be altered. 

It is disheartening to note that our apex court has of late presented itself as a divided house. The poor state of our judiciary came out in the open when early in January this year four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference and accused the current chief justice of India of selective allotment of sensitive cases to “preferred Benches.”  The fractured face of the apex Court has revealed  itself also in a case of the conflicting judgements of three-judge Benches of  the Supreme Court on the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.  

Those at the helm in our judiciary must take to self-introspection and remedy the maladies within. This is a must to defend our democracy today. Speaking at the end of his last day in office recently , then Supreme Court Justice Amitava Roy timely warned: “extra-legal elements are waiting to take over and spell the destruction of the institution.”

Needless to add , our Government would do well to strengthen our judicial system . Lord James Bryce  aptly observed long time back, “There is no a better test of excellence of a government, than the efficiency of its judicial system, for nothing more merely touches the welfare and security of average citizen than his sense that he can rely on the certain and prompt administration of justice.” 

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