New Delhi: Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana Saturday termed access to justice “a tool for social emancipation” and said that only a small percentage of the population could approach courts while the majority suffers in silence, lacking awareness and necessary means.
Technology has emerged as a great enabler, the CJI said, and urged the judiciary “to use modern technological tools to enhance the pace of justice delivery”.
Justice Ramana was addressing the first All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet here.
“Justice: Social, Economic and Political is the vision of justice that our Preamble promises to every Indian. The reality is, today, only a small percentage of our population can approach the justice delivery system, when in need. A majority of the people suffer in silence, lacking awareness and necessary means,” he said. “Modern India was built around the goal of removing the disparities in society. Project democracy is about providing a space for the participation of all. Participation will not be possible without social emancipation. Access to justice is a tool for social emancipation.”
The CJI said one of the most important aspects which call for active consideration and intervention of the legal services authorities in the country was the condition of undertrials.
“The PM and the attorney general have also rightly flagged this issue in the recently held conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices. I am happy to note that National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is actively collaborating with all stakeholders in securing the much-deserved relief for undertrials,” Justice Ramana said.
He said that India, the second most populous country in the world with an average age of 29 years, had a large workforce.
“However, skilled workers are estimated to be only three percent of our total workforce. We need to harness the full potential of the youthful demographic profile of our country. With the western world increasingly falling short of skilled human resources, it is India's turn to fill the gap, globally,” the CJI said.
He termed the district judiciary the backbone of the justice delivery system of India.
“They are the first point of contact for much of the population and its strengthening is the need of the hour,” the CJI said.
“Without any doubt, the district judiciary is the driving force behind the legal aid movement in India,” he said. “Public opinion about the judiciary is primarily based on their experiences with the district judiciary.”
The CJI said that this casts a great responsibility on the district judiciary which must undertake multi-faceted tasks and roles as they were best placed to understand people's problems and social issues.
Justice Ramana hailed the services provided by NALSA following its inception 27 years ago and said, “The fact that it is aimed at offering free legal aid to 70 percent of our population makes NALSA the largest legal aid provider in the world.”
He said many objectives of NALSA had been translated to social realities and this was made possible due to the sincere effort of dedicated judges and advocates.
The CJI also stressed the need for strengthening Alternate Dispute Redressal (ADR) mechanisms like Lok Adalat, mediation, and arbitration centres.
“These ADR mechanisms have the potential to transform the legal landscape of India by providing millions of people a platform to settle their grievances,” he said. “Matters ranging from matrimonial and intergovernmental disputes, government contracts and land acquisition can be attempted to be resolved through mandatory ADR.”
Justice Ramana said that this would not only reduce pendency and backlog but also will provide much-needed speedy justice to the affected parties.
The two-day meet, organised by NALSA, is being attended by over 1200 delegates across the nation including the principal district and sessions judge of all the judicial districts and ex-officio chairpersons of DLSAs, and would discuss the implementation of the unified business process for providing effective legal aid to the marginalised and the poor.