The Chief Justice of India (CJI), N.V. Ramana, said on Saturday that the top court collegium, which is headed by him, is targeting to fill the vacancies in various high courts at the earliest, and it does not want to cut down the pace of the process, rather it seeks Centre's support to enable access to justice and to strengthen the democracy.
Addressing an event organised by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), in which Law Minister Kiren Rijiju was also present, Ramana said: "Since May onwards, my team so far has recommended appointments of 106 judges and 9 chief justices to various high courts. The government has cleared 7 names out of the 106 judges and 1 out of the 9 chief justices so far."
He added that the Law Minister has informed that the rest of the names will be cleared within one or two days.
In total, there are 465 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 1,098 judges in various high courts across the country.
The CJI said that these appointments will take care of the pendency of cases to some extent.
"I seek the cooperation and support of the government to enable access to justice and to strengthen democracy," said Ramana, while speaking at the launch of the six-week 'Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign' of NALSA.
He emphasised that the quality of democracy rests on the quality of justice, and for a healthy democracy, a vibrant judiciary is essential.
Ramana added that loss of daily wage, the prospect of eviction, lack of healthcare and uncertainty about the next meal -- all these flow from the absence of justice.
"The social costs of this are unimaginable. Socio-economic justice would be impossible to achieve without providing equal access to justice. Only when the vulnerable classes are aware about their rights can they shape their own future," he said.
Ramana added, "We need people to feel that law and the institutions are for everyone. In a democratic country, it is the faith and trust of the people that sustain institutions."
Citing that every person comes across legal issues in their lifetime, he said suppression of unmet legal needs results in the suppression of the full potential of an individual.
He emphasised that inclusive and sustainable growth would be impossible to attain without providing inclusive access to justice.
"Equality and 'access to justice' complement each other. In countries with major socio-economic gaps, unequal access to justice leads to widening of these divides," he added.
Reiterating that the Law Minister is dynamic, the CJI said: "I was told that he (Rijiju) set Twitter on fire with his high energy dance. His connect with the common people defines his commitment to society."
On his part, Rijiju said: "I would like to remind us all that speedy and affordable delivery of justice is the legitimate expectation of the people and is the collective responsibility of the different organs of the state."
He added that it is important that all the stakeholders work together to "deliver this mandate".