Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, while speaking at the 11th Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, 30 April, said that “we must be mindful of Laxman Rekha".
He added that the “judiciary will never come in way of governance if it's as per law. If municipalities, gram panchayats perform duties, if police investigate properly and illegal custodial torture comes to end, people need not have to look to courts”.
Meanwhile, stating that the government is trying to do their best to improve the judicial system, PM Modi pushed for local languages in courts and said that it will “increase the confidence of the common citizens of the country in the justice system".
‘20 Judges per 10 Lakh Population Is Alarmingly Low’: CJI Ramana
Stating that it is only the judicial process that is adversarial, and not the judges or their judgments, CJI Ramana said, "Please be generous in creating more posts and filling the same, so that our judge-to-population ratio is comparable to advanced democracies. As per sanctioned strength, we have just around 20 judges per 10 lakh population, which is alarmingly low."
He also spoke about how well-meaning intentions” behind Public Interest Litigations (PIL) are misused and turned into 'Personal Interest Litigation' to stall projects and terrorise the public authorities".
Speaking on the gaps in the judicial system, CJI Ramana said, “Decisions of court aren't implemented by governments for years. There's deliberate inaction despite judicial pronouncements that aren't good for country. Although policymaking is not our domain, if a citizen comes to us with their grievances then court can't refuse.”
He further said that currently, out of 1,104 sanctioned posts of high court judges, there are 388 vacancies, and out of 180 recommendations, 126 appointments have been made for various high courts.
He added that 50 proposals are still awaiting approval by the Centre and the high courts have sent around 100 names to the Union government, which are yet to reach the apex court.
‘Grant Bail in a Timely Manner’: PM Modi
Meanwhile, PM Modi, stressing on technology in the judicial system being an essential part of the Digital India mission, announced that the e-courts project is being implemented on Saturday in “mission mode”.
Pointing out that there are over 3.5 lakh undertrials currently in prison, the prime minister appealed to the chief ministers and chief justices of high courts to grant bail in a timely manner.
“These undertrials are largely poor people. Wherever possible, they must be released on bail,” he added.
The PM also took a jibe at states, saying that in 2015, while the Centre identified about 1,800 laws that had become irrelevant and had abolished 1,450 of them, only 75 laws have been abolished by the states.
Modi added that the government is working towards simplifying laws passed in the Parliament for the common man to understand them.
“Along with the actual legislation, if a simplified version is also passed in the Parliament for the common man to understand, then he will not have to go to the court for interpretation of the law. The government is studying this issue,” PM Modi said.
Modi also laid special emphasis on using local languages to study and practise law across the country. "It will take a long time for that, but it will improve access to justice," he remarked, asking why medical and technical education could not be carried our in "our mother tongue" as well.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju noted that using local languages in court "not only for argument but for the order" would require the CJI's approval and wider consultation.
"We will definitely have a very positive consideration in this matter," he said.
The prime minister also noted how despite initial hesitance, India has adapted to a digital economy, even in rural areas. Stating that 40 percent of global digital transactions occurred in India, he said, "This is the India that will expect the same speed from the judiciary."
Judicial Infrastructure Committees To Be Set Up at National and State Levels: CJI Ramana
Speaking about the conference, CJI Ramana said that two resolutions had been passed during the meet, regarding the National Judicial Infrastructure of India.
He noted that apart from the main body, state bodies would also be created as a "special purpose vehicle and as chief coordinator and driving force for augmentation, creation of judicial infrastructure as per proposal by CJI to the government," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
Remarking on the same, Rijiju said that several states had asked for the state-level committee too, as "the implementation, as well as execution of the works, lies with the state government at the state level".
CJI Ramana, however, expressed apprehensions about implementing local languages in high courts, citing "hurdles and bottlenecks," as some judges may not be familiar with regional languages, and that the Chief Justice would also not be a local.
Bringing up the issue of violence against judges, the Chief Justice of India suggested that all states take up the two-level protection system that is used in Jammu and Kashmir. "I have raised this issue with CMs. They've assured that they'll provide adequate security," he noted.
(With inputs from ANI)