New Delhi: Chief Justice of India designate Justice TS Thakur on Wednesday stressed on the need to fill up vacancies in courts across the country saying striking down of the recent constitutional amendment on judges appointment has made the selection task "much more difficult".
Referring to the 400 vacant positions in high courts and many more in district courts across the country as a major issue, Thakur said, "To find 400 people worthy of being elevated to this position is not an easy task."
"Chief justices and judges of the Supreme Court, while selecting people for elevation, must go strictly by the beats of their conscience rather than any consideration," he added.
Addressing the legal fraternity at a function organised to bid farewell to outgoing CJI HL Dattu, Thakur said judiciary faces its toughest challenges today as people feel it has claimed to itself the power to appoint judges but has to come up to expectations of the people so that they do not feel disappointed.
"This institution is facing its greatest challenge in recent times. Never before in our history has the institution faced challenges like the ones we are confronted with today.
"Striking down of the constitutional amendment that aimed at reforming the system has been commented upon differently at different stages. The fallout of the judgement is that it has made the job of superior courts in the country much more onerous and difficult," Justice Thakur, who will take over as the 43rd Chief Justice of India tomorrow, said.
"I think in times to come, one of the challenges that we will have is how to live up to the expectations of the people in this country in terms of making the process of appointment of judges which has always attracted all types of criticisms on account of absence of so-called transparency, so-called absence of objectivity and so on. We need to work together and find solutions for it," he said.
Justice Thakur also welcomed the suggestion that deserving members of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) could also be considered for elevation as judges.
"There has been a long standing demand from the SCBA that this association is a reservoir of talent that can be and ought to be drawn from in the matter of appointment of judges for different courts. I feel it is a great idea. It ought to be pushed further," he said.
Praising the outgoing CJI for his hard work and sincerity, Thakur said in his tenure, Dattu has reduced the pendency of cases from 64,000 to 58,000.
Justice Dattu, who thanked the legal fraternity and his family for being by his side, said, "The judge even when free is not fully free."
"I feel immense confident and positive with Justice Thakur's knowledge and I'm sure our institution will thrive and become a stronger pillar of democracy," he said.
Encouraging young professionals, Dattu said, "It does not matter if you have a godfather or not, you can still reach heights riding on the back if your abilities. Do not give up."
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi too lauded Justice Dattu for bringing down the pendency of cases during his tenure and for setting up Social Justice bench saying it showed his "compassion, so that people don't think that Supreme Court is for the rich and powerful."
Acknowledging that Indian judiciary handles nearly five crore cases annually, out of which two crore are disposed of, Thakur said these arrears needed to be cleared.
"Judiciary of this country is capable of rising to the occasion and dispose of the cases as quickly as possible. With the help of my colleagues and judges of the high courts, we could perhaps announce that 2016 will be a year for clearance of arrears. I need cooperation of all people associated with administration of justice," he said.