Laying stress on efforts for modernisation of judiciary, Supreme Court judge Justice N V Ramana on Saturday said there is a need for the Centre and states to cooperate and create a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation to cater to the requirements of judicial infrastructure in the country.
Speaking at the inauguration of a new building for the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, he said the ideals of "access to justice" and "speedy justice" form the bedrock of rule of law.
Justice Ramana, who is set to be the next Chief Justice of India (CJI), said that for access to justice, there needs to be sufficient infrastructure to cater to the ever-rising number of disputes.
"Although, every district has courts, however, I must state that they need to be updated to enable them to meet the above challenge. After Independence, the judiciary, in general, has not progressed at an equal pace in comparison with other branches of the state. The judiciary is usually considered rigid in its ways of working due to the procedural requirements. While science and technology have affected all walks of life, integrating the same into the judicial system has been an uphill task," he said.
The event was also attended by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Referring to infrastructure constraints such as courts working from dilapidated old structures and rented premises, without proper record rooms or even staff, he said such situations have an adverse impact on the qualitative dispensation of justice.
"Therefore, it is important to concentrate our efforts on the modernization of judiciary. However, such endeavours must be undertaken after a careful stakeholder analysis and must portray the needs of changing times. Considering the intricacies involved in the judicial process, I call upon scholars and experts to provide a sustainable and inclusive model for the modernization of judicial infrastructure in India," he said.
Noting that strengthening judicial infrastructure is the most important tool to reduce pendency of cases and clear the backlog, he said understanding of judicial infrastructure has to transcend beyond the issues of pendency, vacancy or the number of courtrooms.
"It should involve modernization, upgradation and creating a barrier-free citizen-friendly environment. We can assert true accessibility when the person with the maximum disadvantage can still knock on the doors of the court of justice," he said.
"But, the path before us is not easy. Today, most of the senior judges of the institution are caught up in administrative decision making, in addition to their existing judicial work. They are bound to spend hours understanding the existing issues and finding solutions using existing technology. The pandemic has placed an immense challenge before us," he added.
Justice Ramana said that with help of the government, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde took immediate steps to meet the existing gaps by introducing virtual hearings through video conferencing.
Referring to impediments in the path of modernisation, Justice Ramana said financial constraints must never come in the path of progress.
"There is a need for the Centre and states to cooperate and create a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation, as a one-time measure, to cater to the need for judicial infrastructure in the country. Such a corporation would bring the uniformity and standardization required to revolutionize judicial infrastructure. At the end of the day, we must remember that all our efforts are ultimately intended for the 'justice-seekers' who are the beneficiary," he said.
Justice Ramana said though the persons who will occupy the new court building would be the members of the bar and bench and their support staff, "we must not forget that the focal point of any justice delivery system is the "litigant- the justice seeker".
He said members of the Bar have an integral role to play in the justice delivery system in India. "Never forget your duty towards your society. Remember, the population of our country is predominantly rural, with low levels of income. They cannot afford the legal fees to fight for their cause. The legal community is known for its service to the people and the nation," he said.
Justice Ramana noted that lawyers were at forefront of the freedom struggle.
"With this inspiration in your heart, please attempt to do as much pro-bono work as you can. If senior lawyers do at least two pro-bono cases a month, it would change the legal aid landscape of the country and will definitely increase the quality of service. This will also motivate junior lawyers to follow in your footsteps," he said.
Justice Ramana said the power and strength of any justice-delivery system is derived from the faith of the people in it.
"The bar and bench need to work in conjunction to affirm the faith that a citizen has in the justice delivery system. We are mere custodians. I am sure that you will be able to make use of this grand edifice, to shape the future of this great state," he said.
Referring to Ravi Shankar Prasad, he said "for the first time we have a minister holding the portfolio of law and justice and information technology.
"I appreciate his outlook towards strengthening the judicial infrastructure through integration of technology, so as to increase the access to justice for all," he said.
Justice Ramana thanked the entire network of legal service authorities, volunteers and lawyers for their determination for the cause of justice even during such difficult times. "I urge everyone here to propel the legal aid movement further until easy and affordable access to justice is a reality," he said.
( With inputs from ANI )
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