New Delhi(PTI): The process of selection and appointment of judges should conform to the highest of standards, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday, describing an independent judiciary as the "cornerstone" of democracy.
"The process of selection and appointment of judges should conform to the highest of standards. We must make haste in this regard but without compromising on quality," he said addressing a gathering after inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the Patna High Court.
Mukherjee's remarks came against the backdrop of a controversy over establishment of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, which ended the collegium system where judges appointed judges. The NJAC Act gives a say to the executive in appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts. "The independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of our democracy. The judicial system in our country should be not only accessible but also affordable," he said.
Referring to high pendency of cases, the President stressed on the need to speed up the process of disposal of cases, saying "justice delayed is justice denied". Mukherjee emphasised on filling the vacant posts of judges in courts across the country on a priority basis to expedite delivery of justice. The Patna High Court today has 31 judges against the sanctioned strength of 43 judges, he said, adding 1,33,297 cases were pending there asof March 31, 2015. The pendency in the subordinate courts under the Patna High Court is an estimated 20 lakh and more than 16.8 lakh of them are criminal cases, he said.
The President said the Patna High Court has lived up to the expectations of the then Viceroy and Governor-General of India Lord Hardinge. "I feel assured, that within its walls in future days, justice will be administered with courage and impartiality, to the terror of evil-doers, and to the triumph of every cause which is right and true, so that the High Court of Bihar shall earn a name for sound sense and good law," Mukherjee quoted Lord Hardinge as having said while laying the foundation-stone of the Patna High Court building on December 1, 1913.
The President said if any one goes through the history of Patna High Court, it will be seen that it has more than lived up to the expectations of Lord Hardinge. "Landmark judgements have been delivered by this court," Mukherjee said as he remembered its illustrious past.
The President said luminaries of the Patna High Court included country's first President Rajendra Prasad. Syed Hasan Imam, president of the Indian National Congress in 1918, and the first president of the Constituent Assembly, Sachchidanand Sinha, were also the members of the court bar . Three Chief Justices of the Patna High Court--Justice B P
Sinha, Justice Lalit Mohan Sharma and Justice R M Lodha went on to become the Chief Justices of India, he said. Bihar Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, state chief minister Nitish Kumar, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were among those present. The President also released a postage stamp to mark the centenary celebrations of the court.