SCO Countries Should Strive for Judicial Cooperation To Make Systems More Approachable for Common People: CJI Chandrachud

 Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud has stressed that the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should strive for judicial cooperation in order to make their judicial systems more approachable for the common people.

In his concluding address to the 18th meeting of chief justices/chairpersons of the Supreme Courts of the SCO member states hosted by Supreme Court of India, CJI Chandrachud emphasised upon the need to collectively adopt new mechanisms to make court processes simpler and more accessible.

He highlighted several challenges facing the judicial systems in the SCO member states and how the conference allowed all member and observer states to reflect upon the challenges that are common to their jurisdictions.

He also emphasized that these issues need to be tackled with mutual cooperation and by sharing experiences and wisdom gathered.

A statement issued by the apex court said that while agreeing on a number of shared goals for the future of the judiciary of respective countries at the closure, Uzbekistan was collectively entrusted the presidency for the next meeting of chief justices/chairpersons for the year 2024 on rotation.

The two-day meet was held in New Delhi under the presidency Chief Justice Chandrachud on March 10-11 with an aim to foster effective judicial cooperation among the member states.

“It was a two-day joint interaction session wherein all SCO member states, two observer states (Iran and Belarus), SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) and SCO Secretariat had taken part physically except Pakistan who joined through video conference,” the statement of the apex court said.

The session concluded with the signing of a joint statement.

The intention to strengthen and expand cooperation among the Supreme Courts of the SCO member states and to promote the use of technology to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system and access to justice were deliberated upon during the course of the meeting.

After the meetings which concluded on Saturday, sources in the apex court said that the delegates visited Agra on Sunday.

On March 10, in a joint interaction session, the CJI gave the brief description of the judicial system in India.

Brief description of the judicial system followed in SCO member/observer states as well as the challenges faced and measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic were also given.

Besides the Chief Justice of India, other speakers who addressed the session include Aslambek Mergaliyev, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Jinghong Gao, Vice-President of Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, Zamirbek Bazarbekov, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, Umar Ata Bandial, and Vyacheslav M Lebedev, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

Other who spoke on the occasion include Valery Kalinkovich, first deputy chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus, Mohammad Mosaddegh Kahnamoee, first deputy of the Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Janesh Kain, Deputy Secretary General, SCO Secretariat, and Rakesh Kumar Verma, deputy director, executive committee, RATS, SCO.

CJI Chandrachud shared the challenges faced by the judicial institution during the COVID-19 pandemic and focussed on the measures such as the adoption of technology for virtual hearings, live-streaming of court proceedings, and e-filing undertaken by the Indian judiciary to ensure access to justice.

He highlighted that the incorporation of technology in the Indian judicial system has made the judicial institutions more accessible for all its citizens.

“The heads of judiciaries who attended the meeting also shared the functioning of their judicial systems and challenges faced and innovative measures taken by their judiciaries to minimize the impact of COVID-19 pandemic,” the press statement of the apex court said.

On Saturday, the CJI opened the discussion on “smart courts” and the future of the judiciary.

The CJI, while addressing the delegates, discussed India’s smart court initiatives and stressed that the judicial system must ensure that timely and effective justice is delivered to all citizens, regardless of their location or socio-economic status.

He said that technology must be used to bridge the gap between citizens and the justice system and shared that the “smart court” initiatives focused on simplifying procedures and increasing access for citizens to the justice delivery system through digital infrastructure.

He highlighted the recent endeavours made by the apex court such as the launch of e-version of Supreme Court Reports, AI-based live transcription of court proceedings and translation of judgments in multiple regional languages.

Participating in the discussion, Nail Akhmetzakirov, head of the court administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan, highlighted that the introduction of technology in their judicial facilities had made the court work and proceedings easy.

He added that Kazakhstan has developed a new software post COVID-19 pandemic in order to make the electronic system in judicial services more accessible.

Rakhat Karimova, Judge of the Bishkek City Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, informed the delegates that the judicial system of Kyrgyz Republic is focussed on the just and effective measures for the interest of people at large.

The second topic of discussion was facilitating “access to justice”. Justice S K Kaul of the apex court highlighted the importance of access to justice.

He raised concerns regarding overly populated prisons by undertrials and emphasized that the issue of access to quality legal representation is a key element in the criminal justice system.

Participating in the discussion, Xiaochen Qiann, Chief Judge of case-filing division of the Supreme People’s Court of China, added that it was of the prime importance for the growth of the judiciary that modern public judicial services are built, featuring inclusiveness, equity, convenience, efficiency, intelligence and accuracy.

Vyacheslav M Lebedev, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, highlighted that several laws have been created to protect the citizens including the system of claims, which can be filed by the plaintiffs at their own place of residence, allowing remote participation in court sessions, notifications via SMS regarding time and place of trial and availability of information regarding working of the court.

In the third topic of discussion, “Institutional Challenges facing Judiciary: Delays, Infrastructure, Representation, and Transparency”, Justice K M Joseph of the top court highlighted the issue of high pendency of cases and the need for adequate infrastructure facilities as a means to access to justice.

The SCO members include China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia constitute the SCO observers while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Nepal are the SCO dialogue partners.

The SCO was created in 2001 on the basis of “Shanghai five” formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Russia and Tajikistan and its main goal is to strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighbourliness, encouraging effective cooperation in several areas among the member states.

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