Kolkata: Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Saturday criticised the delay in justice delivery in the country and said that it was the poor and the marginalised people who bore the brunt.

"It is evident that our progress on achieving the constitutional promise of assuring the dignity of the individual and securing to citizens justice, social, economic and political, especially to the poor and disadvantaged, leaves much to be desired," he said addressing a function to celebrate 150 years of the Calcutta High Court.

"Can we speak of justice delivery when the process takes years to reach finality?" Ansari questioned.

Stating that a few questions arose if one went beyond the constitutional guarantees and looked around at the legal and judicial landscape, he asked "is our legal and judicial system able to deliver justice to every citizen, especially the poor and the disadvantaged?

"Is substantive access to justice diminishing as the cost of quality legal service escalates beyond the reach of the common citizen? Is legal knowledge increasingly being deployed for the rich?" he questioned.

The vice-president said "today there is a pendency of over 56,000 cases in the Supreme Court, of which around 36,000 are arrears constituting cases which are more than one year old.

"The pendency in the High Courts and subordinate courts as of December 31, 2010 is around 3.2 crore cases, of which around 85 lakh cases are over five years old," he said.

Asserting that excessive adjournments were a primary cause for delay in justice delivery, he said "other reasons are shortage of resources and capacity, long-winded arguments by counsels, inadequate judge strength, delay in filling-up vacancies and disproportionate concentration of work among some members of the bar."