Indianisation Of Our Legal System Is Need Of The Hour: CJI NV Ramana
Even God cannot ever question or dispute what the incumbent Chief Justice of India – NV Ramana said just recently on September 18, 2021 that Indianisation of our legal system is the need of the hour and it is crucial to make the justice delivery system more accessible and effective. He said that Courts need to be litigant-centric and the simplification of justice delivery should be the pressing concern. He minced just no words to wax eloquent noting that, “Very often justice delivery poses many barriers for the common people. The working and the style of courts do not sit well with the complexities of India. Our systems, practice, rules being colonial in origin, it may not be best suited to the needs of the Indian population.” What wrong has the CJI said? Who can ever dispute or question what the CJI is advocating so vocally and appropriately which is the crying need of the hour also?
While speaking at an event organized by the Karnataka Bar Council in Bengaluru to pay tribute to the late Supreme Court Judge – Justice MM Shantanagoudar who expired just recently on April 24 while still in office aged 62 years who had 3 more years to perform his duties as a Judge in Apex Court and could have contributed immensely had he not died, CJI while explaining the dire need of the Indianisation of our legal system remarked that, “When I say Indianisation, I mean the need to adapt to the practical realities of our society and localize our justice delivery systems. For example, parties from a rural place fighting a family dispute are usually made to feel out of place in the court. They do not understand the arguments or pleadings which are mostly in English, a language alien to them. These days, judgments have become lengthy, which further complicates the position of litigants. For the parties to understand the implications of a judgment, they are forced to spend more money.”
Who can deny or dispute what the CJI NV Ramana has said so rightly, remarkably and refreshingly? What the CJI has said only reflects the supreme concern that he has for the innumerable woes and terrible sufferings faced by the common person in pursuing justice in the doors of the court where he/she finds himself/herself completely helpless! It is so touching and gratifying to see that a CJI has spoken so personally into the endless woes faced by the common person which he has already dwelt upon! They merit prompt redressal right now as it is the litigants themselves who will stand to gain the most from it!
It merits reiteration that the CJI very rightly underlined that courts should be litigant centric, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries. CJI was hundred percent on the mark when he observed most sagaciously that, “The simplification of justice delivery should be our pressing concern. It is crucial to make justice delivery more transparent, accessible and effective. Procedural barriers often undermine access to justice. The common man should not be apprehensive about approaching the courts and authorities. While approaching the court, he should not feel scared of the judges and the court. He should be able to speak the truth.”
While elaborating further, the CJI stated that it is the duty of lawyers and judges to create an environment that is comforting for the litigants and other stakeholders. He said elegantly, eloquently and most effectively in suave, simple and straight language that, “We must not forget that the focal point of any justice delivery system is ‘the litigant-the justice seeker’. In this light, usage of alternate dispute mechanism such as mediation and conciliation would go a long way in reducing the friction between parties and would save resources. This also reduces the pendency and requirement for having lengthy arguments with lengthy judgments.”
It goes without saying that even average lawyers with more than four to five decades of experience find it hard to read judgments which are very long some are 500 pages and some even extending to thousand pages and have to work really very hard before they can fully understand it what to speak about common person! When lawyers themselves face difficulty in reading the judgments and need a lot of time to go through then we all can gauge for ourselves as to what would be the state of a common man who is not well acquainted with our legal system and the complex procedures involved in it! Shouldn’t it not then be simplified?
It cannot be glossed over that none other than Mahatma Gandhi himself had said quite pragmatically, practically and powerfully that, “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test:
Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.”
Keeping what Gandhiji had said in mind, late Justice Dr AR Lakshmanan who was the Chairman of 18th Law Commission of India while submitting the 230th report titled “Reforms In The Judiciary – Some Suggestions” had very strongly recommended creation of more High Court Benches in different states which he submitted to the Union Law Minister of Law and Justice on August 5, 2009 yet only one state gained from it and that is Karnataka itself where for just 4 and 8 districts two more High Court Benches were created at Dharwad and Gulbarga and not anywhere else till now more than 12 years later even though it is UP that tops the maximum pending cases and still has just one Bench which is very close to Allahabad at Lucknow just about 200 km away and not anywhere else! Karnataka has just 6 crore population yet has 3 High Court Benches at Hubli, Dharwad and Gulbarga but UP has more than 24 crore population and West UP alone has more than 9 crore population yet West UP has not even a single High Court Bench what to say about anything else! Is this fair?
Can anyone deny that even the 18th Law Commission in its 230th report noted : “In almost every High Court, there is huge pendency of cases and the present strength of the judges can hardly be said to be sufficient to cope with the alarming situation. It is also necessary that the work of the High Courts is decentralized, that is, more Benches are established in all States. If there is manifold increase in the strength of the judges and the staff, all cannot be housed in one campus. Therefore, the establishment of new Benches is necessary. It is also in the interest of the litigants. The Benches should be so established that a litigant is not required to travel long. It is true that the new establishments will require money, but it is necessary as a development measure, particularly, when efforts are being made for all-round development of the country. Therefore, the money should not be a problem. We have to watch and protect the interest of the litigants. We must always keep in mind that the existence of judges and advocates is because of the litigants and they are there to serve their cause only. Sometimes, some advocates object to creation of new Benches and selection of new sites for construction of new buildings. But they raise objections in their personal, limited interest. Creation of new Benches is certainly beneficial for the litigants and the lawyers and a beginning has to be made somewhere. A speedy trial is not only required to give quick justice but it is also an integral part of the fundamental right of life, personal liberty, as envisaged in article 21 of the Constitution. Article 39A of the Constitution provides for equal justice and free legal aid. The said article obligates the State to promote justice on a basis of equal opportunity and, in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities?”
What can be a bigger injustice for the common man of West UP than the harsh and lamentable fact that the High Courts of 8 states including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and above all even Lahore High Court are nearer to West UP in comparison to Allahabad High Court? Who suffers as a result? It is the common man who is the worst affected.
Why when UP which is among the largest States, has maximum population – more than 24 crore as CM Yogi Adityanath keeps pointing out every now and then, maximum districts – 75, maximum constituencies, maximum tehsils – 350, maximum MPs – 80, maximum MLAs – 404, maximum PM including Narendra Modi, maximum pending cases – more than 10 lakh and here too West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases as noted by Justice Jaswant Commission about 57%, maximum Judges which earlier was 160 and increased to 200 in high court, maximum vacancies of Judges – 75 in high court, maximum poverty, maximum villages more than one lakh as opposed to other states who have not more than few thousands at the most, maximum cities more than 700, maximum fake encounters killings, custody killings, custodial tortures, maximum dowry cases, maximum rape and gang rape cases, maximum acid throwing cases, maximum bride burning cases, maximum cases of human rights violations, maximum undertrials, maximum cases of crime, loot, arson and riots and here too West UP tops with Saharanpur riots, Meerut riots, Muzaffarnagar riots tarnishing our international reputation to the extent that former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon termed UP as “crime and rape capital” of India and what not yet Centre is not prepared to create even a single bench for not just West UP but entire UP? Why when UP sends maximum MPs to Lok Sabha – 80, maximum MPs to Rajya Sabha – 30, maximum MLAs to State Assembly – 404 MLAs and maximum members to State Legislative Council – 100 MLAs and yet has least benches – only one and that too just 200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow?
It is so shocking and disgusting to see that West UP is fast becoming the epicenter of all kinds of crimes, rapes, gangrapes, brutal murders, mass murders, dacoity, robbery and what not still no High Court Bench being created! Even the former Chairman of Bar Council of UP – Darvesh Yadav who was the first woman to assume the high office at young age of just 38 years was shot dead in the court premises itself soon after being elected in Agra in West UP! What is even more shocking to see is that all political parties barring Samajwadi Party have openly espoused the creation of a high court bench in West UP but still even after seventy four years of independence we see no sign of it happening anytime soon! What is most shocking is that inspite of West UP accounting for more than half of the crime cases all over UP, not a single high court bench has been created here since 1947 till now in 2021 even though a high court bench was created at Lucknow which is just about 150-200 km away from Allahabad way back on July 1, 1948!
No CJI from 1947 to 2021 has ever cared to think about it even though CJI NV Ramana expressed his concern just recently on the huge number of pending criminal cases in the Allahabad High Court and urged the Bar and Bench to work together to resolve it! He said cogently, commendably and convincingly that, “I do not want to point any fingers or lay any blame regarding the pendency in the Allahabad High Court relating to criminal cases, which is very worrying.” Should still more High Court Benches not be created in UP?
It cannot be denied that while replying on the pendency of cases in various courts in Uttar Pradesh, Union Law Ministry’s answer in Lok Sabha on July 28, 2021 was: Allahabad High Court including Lucknow Bench – 5,68,987 (Civil) and 4,51,406 (Criminal); Subordinate Courts – 18,41,155 (Civil) and 73,94,155 (Criminal); Fast Track Courts – 5,43,081. Still denying UP even a single more Bench other than one at Lucknow for just 12 districts since 1948 till 2021 can ever be justified on any ground? On the recommendations of Justice Jaswant Singh Commission, High Court Bench was created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra which already had 2 Benches at Nagpur and Panaji and which tops in state list index of justice delivery and similarly Benches were created on its recommendations at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, at Madurai in Tamil Nadu but for UP it recommended 3 Benches for undivided UP at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital yet not a single was created! Can this ever be justified on any ground? This is what the CJI must look into independently and then decide on it urgently! It cannot be kept in abeyance any longer now! It is the common man who will gain the most! Similarly in Bihar also which has not even a single Bench must have as it is counted as a state where law and order is not good!