India chief justice in 'tearful' plea for more judges

Pigeons fly past the dome of India's Supreme Court building in Delhi. Photo: February 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption A judge at India's Supreme Court deals with about 2,600 cases a year, compared with just 81 in the US

India's top judge has made an emotional plea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to recruit more judges to handle an "avalanche" of backlogged cases.

Chief Justice TS Thakur appeared close to tears as he asked how the country's current 21,000 judges could cope with tens of millions cases pending.

He said a judge at India's Supreme Court dealt with about 2,600 cases a year, compared with just 81 in the US.

Mr Modi said the government would try to solve the problem.

Speaking at a conference in Delhi, Chief Justice Thakur said: "It is for development of this country, that I beseech you to rise the occasion.

"You cannot shift the entire burden to the judiciary... There is a limit to judges' capacity."

He said the government should raise the number of judges to at least 40,000.

Nearly 30 years ago, a commission recommended a fivefold increase in the proportion of judges to people - but this has not happened, the BBC's Charles Haviland says.

India has a notoriously slow legal system, and court hearings can go for years or even decades.

At the rate they are currently being handled, it would take about 30 years to clear only the criminal cases, experts say.

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