Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Saturday said the legislature does not conduct studies or assess the impact of the laws that it passes, which sometimes leads to “big issues” and result in over-burdening of cases on the judiciary.
He also highlighted that simply re-branding the existing courts as commercial courts, without creating a special infrastructure, will not have any impact on the pendency.
Addressing judges and lawyers, CJI Ramana said, “We must remember that whatever criticism or obstacle that we may encounter, our mission to render justice cannot stop. We have to march on in pursuing our duty to strengthen the judiciary and protect the rights of the citizenry.” The CJI, who was speaking at the valedictory ceremony of Constitution Day celebrations in the presence of President Ram Nath Kovind and Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, said the issue of pendency of cases in the judiciary is multi-faceted in nature and hoped that the government would take into consideration the suggestions received during this two-day programme and resolve the prevailing issues.
“Another issue is that the legislature does not conduct studies or assess the impact of the laws that it passes. This sometimes leads to big issues. The introduction of section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is an example of this. Now, the already-burdened magistrates are further burdened by thousands of these cases. Similarly, re-branding the existing courts as commercial courts, without creating a special infrastructure, will not have any impact on the pendency,” he said.
Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act deals with dishonour of cheques for insufficiency of funds in bank accounts.
The CJI lauded the announcement of the Union law minister that the government has allocated Rs 9,000 crore, a substantial amount, for the development of judicial infrastructure.
“However, as I have highlighted yesterday, funds are not the problem. The problem is with some of the states not coming forward to match the grants. As a result, the central funds largely remain unutilised,” he said.
“That is the reason why I am proposing a special purpose vehicle of judicial infrastructure authority. I beseech the minister to take this proposal to a logical conclusion. I also urge the minister to expedite the process of filling judicial vacancies,” the CJI said.
He added that the purpose of the two-day meet was to highlight the dedication to constitutional principles and on Friday, he had mentioned how even the well-informed sections of the society are unaware of the importance of the Constitution.
“Although we are tirelessly working to uphold the Constitution, there is still a need to spread more understanding about the Constitution. If people are unaware about their rights and entitlements, they cannot claim benefit from the same. People also need to know the scope and limitations of the roles ascribed to the different organs of the State. We need to clear the prevailing misconceptions,” he said.
The CJI said many people in the country believe that it is the courts that make the laws and there is another set of misunderstandings relating to the belief that the courts are responsible for liberal acquittals and adjournments.
“However, the truth is that the public prosecutors, advocates and parties — all have to cooperate with the judicial process. Non-cooperation, procedural lapses and faulty investigation cannot be blamed on courts. These are the issues with the judiciary that need to be addressed,” he said, adding that this is one of the reasons he is so glad that all the chief justices and senior judges in the country were able to participate in the event.
Referring to Attorney General KK Venugopal’s suggestions given on Friday, where he proposed restructuring of the judicial system and altering the hierarchy of the courts, the CJI said this is something that merits consideration by the government.
“Since Independence, I do not think there has been a serious study to consider what exactly should be the structural hierarchy of the judiciary in India,” he said.
The CJI said it was the president, who actually set the tone for the event and who has constantly encouraged the entry of women into the legal profession and increased representation of women in the judiciary.
He added that necessity is the mother of all inventions and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the judiciary had to transform the way it approached various issues.
“It has forced us to develop certain good practices, which will support us in the days to come, although at a terrible cost. The Indian judiciary was one of the first institutions to shift to the online mode. This has opened a world of opportunities and we have witnessed innumerable benefits arising out of it,” the CJI said, while thanking Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, who are the heads of various committees in the Supreme Court relating to technology.
He also thanked Justice UU Lalit, who is the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), for leading a spirited campaign to spread awareness on legal aid.
The CJI said the last two years have been very difficult for everyone and many of the judges, judicial officers and staff have lost their lives, and he understands the amount of stress and suffering they must have faced in these tough times.