India’s most senior judge has made an impassioned plea for the appointment of more judges to help clear a backlog of more than 33 million criminal and civil cases.

Chief Justice T.S. Thakur said the entire US Supreme Court of nine judges decides 81 cases a year, whereas an Indian judge rules on an average of 2,600 cases annually. India’s Supreme Court, with an official strength of 31 judges, has 60,000 cases outstanding.

According to the Indian Express, Thakur’s voice choked with emotion as he told the country’s prime minister that despite promises ‘nothing really appears to be moving’.  

He told Narendra Modi: ‘We want people to come and invest in India. But those we invite are also concerned about the ability of our judicial system to deal with cases and disputes that arise out of such investments. Efficacy of the judicial system is so vitally connected with the development.’

Cases lasting decades over tiny sums of money frequently make headlines in India. One that has lasted four decades involves a Delhi bus conductor accused of defrauding his employer of 1/20th of a rupee by undercharging a passenger by 5 paise (0.05p).

Modi said he understood Thakur’s concerns and that the government was open to setting up a joint panel of representatives from the judiciary and executive to deal with ‘pendency’.