Justice to all can’t be through mere litigation, focus on mediation: AG Venkataramani

The constitutional promise of access to justice for all cannot be gained through mere access to litigation and disputes must be resolved through the mode of mediation, Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani said on Sunday.

The top law officer emphasized that the poor and the marginalised suffer the most in an adversarial system and thus urged the government to instead push mediation as a recourse, saying there was a “need to explore access to justice beyond courts and litigation”.

“I appeal on behalf of the Indian Bar to all governments to prioritize their focus on mediation as the only lasting and economically wise system of settling issues and differences…. With the enactment of mediation law, we need to take a long jump into pushing the mediation philosophy as the major guiding force towards dispute avoidance and dispute resolution,” the attorney general said.

“The (legal) profession cannot be a litigation focused institution. The constitutionally promised benefits of access to justice to all cannot be a mere litigation access. Resolution of disputes and differences cannot continue through the adversarial system. It is the poor, marginalized and economically weaker sections that suffer the vicissitudes of adversarial system more,” he stated.

Venkataramani was speaking at a Constitution Day event in the Supreme Court in the presence of President Droupadi Murmu, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal and several other dignitaries.

The attorney general said Constitution Day was a “national manifesto day for all”.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Adish C Aggarwala, in his address on the occasion, said the Constitution of India was guarded by a strong and independent judiciary and the Bar was determined to fully cooperate with all initiatives that brought people closer to justice.

Venkataramani said the Bar has “slipped a bit” in engaging in its “social obligation mandate” and morphed into a mere litigation engine.

He also cautioned against using the instrument of public interest litigations in a frivolous manner.

Venkataramani told the audience that he was pursuing the formulation of “litigation management policy” by the central government and also batted for setting up a national institute for criminal justice to deal with the everyday working of criminal courts.

He also spoke on the incorporation of technology in the judicial system, saying any expenditure in this aspect is “worth its salt”.

“Justice needs of different sections of the community, particularly at district and tehsil levels, can be met by digital expansion at greater speed and achievement compared to the slow pace of work in the physical world. We need digital gram and local nyayalayas,” he said.

Venkataramani asserted that the government should open its mind to new approaches to justice administration while keeping in mind that greater the investment in justice, greater the gross national peace index.

“The pledge that all of us will take on this day is a pledge to constantly look at the quality of the constitutional march…,” the attorney general said as he acknowledged that there was a need to address problems that plague the “even tempo of peace and progress”.

SCBA president Aggarwala hailed the judges for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing access to courts by adopting virtual hearings.

“I am happy that CJI Chandrachud has increased the number of working days in the Supreme Court to 190 in the year 2024. We expect that in the year 2025, the Supreme Court may cross 200 working day,” he said.

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“Since COVID-19, district courts and high courts of the country have heard nearly three crore cases and the Supreme Court did more than five lakh cases in virtual hearings, making the country a world leader in virtual hearings,” he added.

Aggarwala said he was hopeful that the Centre would accede to the Bar’s request to introduce the Advocates Protection Bill to provide for medical insurance and to make available land for chambers of lawyers.

He further said the unveiling of a statue of B R Ambedkar in the Supreme Court premises earlier in the day was a “long-standing demand” of the Bar and it was “most fitting” that a tribute was paid to him in the centenary year of the start of his law practice, on the day that marks adoption of the Constitution.

Since 2015, November 26 is observed as Constitution Day to mark the adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly in 1949. Earlier, the day was observed as Law Day.

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