Greatest challenge before judiciary is to eliminate barriers to accessing justice: CJI

Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud on Tuesday said the greatest challenge before the Indian judiciary is to eliminate the barriers to accessing justice and make sure that judiciary is inclusive and accessible to the last person in the line.

He also said that there is a need to overhaul the infrastructure on a priority basis to make courts accessible and inclusive.

Speaking at the Independence Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) at the apex court lawns, the CJI said the aim is to create a judicial system which is more accessible and cost-effective for the people and that full potential of technology has to be tapped to overcome the procedural barriers to justice.

While referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Red Fort, Justice Chandrachud said the PM mentioned about the apex court’s efforts to translate judgements in Indian languages.

The CJI said up to now, 9,423 judgements of the top court have been translated in regional languages.

Besides the CJI, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, other judges of the apex court, Attorney General R Venkataramani, SCBA office bearers, including its president and senior advocate Adish C Aggarwala and secretary Rohit Pandey, were present during the programme.

During his address, the CJI said over 19,000 cases have been disposed by the top court between March and June this year.

“As I look to the future, I believe the greatest challenge before the Indian judiciary is to eliminate the barriers to accessing justice,” he said.

“We have to enhance access to justice procedurally by eliminating the constraints which prevent citizens from approaching courts and substantively, by building confidence in the courts’ ability to dispense justice and we have a road map in place to make sure that the future of Indian judiciary is inclusive and accessible to the last person in the line,” the CJI said.

He also spoke about the plan to expand the apex court by constructing a new building to accommodate 27 additional courts, four registrar courtrooms and adequate facilities for lawyers and litigants.

He said to make the courts accessible and inclusive, “we need to overhaul our court infrastructure on a priority basis.”

Justice Chandrachud said the emphasis on modernising the judicial infrastructure to meet the challenges of the future is key to this mission.

On the use of technology in the judicial process, the CJI said it is the best tool to eliminate inefficiency.

“We have to tap into the full potential of technology to overcome procedural barriers to justice. In pursuance of this, we are implementing phase three of the e-courts project,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said phase three of e-courts project has received a budgetary sanction of the Centre to the extent of Rs 7,000 crore and it seeks to revolutionise the working of courts by inter-linking all courts across the country, setting up infrastructure of paperless courts, digitisation of court records and setting of advance e-sewa kendras in all court complexes.

“Our aim is to create a judicial system that is more accessible, cost-effective and affordable for every individual who seek justice. We are already striving to make the court premises and court services disabled-friendly,” he said.

The CJI also talked about efforts of the apex court to make all its 35,000 judgements available to citizens in regional languages.

“I must also share with you that the prime minister today, in the course of his Independence Day speech at the Red fort, mentioned about efforts of the Supreme Court to translate the judgements of the Supreme Court in Indian languages,” he said.

“I would like to further elaborate on that and tell you that up to now, 9,423 judgements of the Supreme Court have been translated in regional languages,” the CJI said, adding 8,977 judgements are in Hindi and also in languages like Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Urdu.

The CJI said irrespective of the outcome of a case, he believes that the real strength of the system is granting access to justice to the citizens.

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“If we glance at the last 76 years, we realise that each institution has contributed to strengthening of our nation’s soul and it is important that we recognise that all the institutions of our nation — the executive, the legislature and the judiciary — are associated with common task of nation building,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said courts provide a safe democratic space for individuals to seek protection of their lives and liberties.

“The past 76 years suggests that the history of the Indian judiciary is the history of the daily life struggles of Indian people. If our history teaches us anything, it is this that no matter is big or small for the courts. It is in the routinely small matters that issues of grave constitutional and jurisprudential importance emerge,” he said.

The CJI said resolution of every legal grievance is important and in attending to such grievances, the courts are only performing their constitutional duty.

He also talked about the initiatives of the apex court, including live-streaming of court proceedings, to contribute to the transparency of legal process.

Justice Chandrachud said it has been brought to his notice that verification of cases filed in the apex court takes time and he is working very closely to ensure that it is reduced.

Giving data about the number of cases filed and disposed of by the apex court, he said in March this year, 4,527 cases were filed, 22,282 cases were listed and 4,086 were disposed of.

The CJI said in April this year, 4,716 cases were filed while 4,700 were disposed of.

“Our aim for future is to ensure that our judicial systems are capable of managing the expectations of the Indian people. Legitimacy of our institutions can be secured only when the courts establish themselves as robust, independent institutions,” he said.

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