Sustaining public faith, overcoming language barrier among judiciary’s challenges: CJI

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said Saturday that he has been highlighting various issues affecting the country’s legal system and that “the biggest issue affecting all institutions nowadays, including the judiciary, is ensuring sustained faith in the eyes of the public”. He also sought greater inclusivity in the justice delivery system and removal of language barriers.

The CJI was speaking at the foundation stone-laying ceremony for a nine-storey administrative block at the Madras High Court in Chennai.

“The judiciary is vested with immense constitutional responsibility of maintaining the rule of law and checking executive and legislative excesses. We have the duty of upholding and enforcing constitutional values. It is no doubt a heavy burden. But it is one that we have gladly chosen on the day we took our constitutional oath. This is the reason why strengthening judicial institutions has been my top priority. Strengthening the judiciary is imperative for a democracy sustained on the rule of law. Dispensing justice is not only a constitutional duty, but also a social one,” he said.

The CJI, who completed a year in office on Saturday, said that the Supreme Court Collegium headed by him had made 180 recommendations for high court judges in the last one year of which 126 appointments were made while 54 are pending with the government. He said that “from day one, it has been my endeavour to fill judicial vacancies” and added that “as on today, out of 1,104 sanctioned posts of high court judges, there are 388 vacancies”.

“In fact, my very first communication to the chief justices of the high court(s) was to request them to expedite the process of recommending names for elevation. Due to collective efforts at all levels, we could make considerable progress in the filling up of the judicial vacancies. After I assumed office, we made 180 recommendations so far, for appointments in high courts. Out of this, 126 appointments were made. Fifty-four proposals are awaiting approval by the government,” he said.

The CJI added that “government has received nearly 100 proposals from various high courts, which are yet to be transmitted to Supreme Court” and hoped “that the high courts will expedite the process of sending the proposals to fill the remaining 212 vacancies”.

He pointed out that though “conflicts are inevitable for any society…constructive resolution of conflict is integral to maintain the social order”. “Constructive conflict resolution is not a mere technical job. Particularly in a country like India, judges cannot blindly apply the rules, procedures and statutes. After all, conflicts have a human face. We are constantly aware about our duty to render justice, not merely procedural, but also substantial,” he added.

Delving on the complexities of judging, he said: “Judges should be aware of social realities. We have to carefully watch the changing social needs and expectations”. Pointing out that the world is moving fast, he cautioned that “real justice will” however “be a casualty if we strive for instant justice”.

“The world is moving very fast. We are witnessing this change in every sphere of life. From five-day test match, we have moved on to 20-20 format. We prefer short duration entertainment over a 3-hour-long movie. From filter coffee, we have moved on to instant coffee. In this era of instant noodles, people expect instant justice. But they do not realize that real justice will be a casualty if we strive for instant justice,” he said.

A strong proponent of the Indianisation of the justice delivery system, CJI Ramana emphasised: “By Indianisation, I mean moulding the Indian judicial system for the benefit of the Indian populace. It is a multidimensional concept. It calls for inclusivity, providing access to people to participate in the proceedings, removal of language barrier, reforms in practice and procedure, development of infrastructure, filling up of vacancies, augmenting the strength of judiciary and so on.”

He also touched upon the difficulties on account of language in courts and said “the common citizen…cannot relate to the practices, procedures and language of our courts… The parties must understand the ongoing process and development of their case. It should not be like chanting mantras in a wedding,” he said, and added that “from time to time, there have been demands from various regions to allow the usage of local language in the proceedings before the high courts”.

“A lot of debate has taken place on this subject”, but “there are certain barriers,” he said, expressing the hope that “with innovation in science and technology, and advancements such as artificial intelligence, some of the issues associated with the introduction of local languages in high courts may be solved in the near future”.

The CJI underlined that “the practice of law before Constitutional Courts should be based on one’s intelligence and understanding of law, and not mere proficiency in language. It is time for some decision to be taken on this issue.”

“Inclusivity is one of the most important dimensions of Indianisation”, he said and pointed out that he has been pushing the case for higher representation of women at all levels of the legal profession. He emphasised that inclusivity does not “stop with only representation of women” and “everyone has a voice in this system.”

“In fact, we are awaiting a day where a persons’ gender, orientation, birth or identity would not act as a barrier,” the Chief Justice of India said.

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