Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia on Sunday said the government can't be expected to provide food, education and healthcare to all but advocated relief to the deprived sections.
Addressing the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference, he said while it was not possible to have access for everyone to everything, the needs of those below the poverty line should be addressed.
"Equal access to food cannot be given. You cannot have access to all in a population of one billion but those who are below the poverty line can have it," he said.
He pointed out that after the financial meltdown, there was a paradigm shift from equality in the sense of equal access to minimum core approach.
"Basic amenities, basic social goods can always be provided and in that we can balance it with development. At the same time, we can help the common man," he said.
"It is the paramount duty of judges to adopt an approach in interpretation which enhances social welfare," he said.
More than 800 delegates, including judges, jurists and legal luminaries, from 54 Commonwealth countries are attending the five-day conference which began Saturday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday formally inaugurated the biennial conference, held in India after a gap of four decades.
Referring to the case of a HIV patient who could not afford a second line of treatment, the chief justice said that in such cases it was not open to the government to toll the bell of financial crunch.
"In such cases, we have to apply minimum core approach. If you have a paradigm shift from equal access to deprivation, then for those classes of persons who are totally deprived the government cannot say we will not provide the requisite relief," he said.
"I believe that if a person comes below the poverty line, subject to certain caveats, it is not open for the government to say we have no funds because the government is also obliged to administer certain economic reforms but Article 41 of the Constitution says very clearly that it will depend on the resources," Justice Kapadia said.
"After financial meltdown in even Western countries, jurisprudence is taking a different view than what it used to take in the past. They are now saying we should refigure and revisit welfarism which is called reconfiguration of welfare rights and which is also called as reconfiguration of discrimination laws," he added.
The chief justice said that while industrial growth and service sector growth was around 12 percent, there was stagnation in agriculture at four percent.
He called it as one of the reasons for scarcity of food and said it is having chain reaction on inflation.
He urged Manmohan Singh to consider introducing Indian Regulatory Service on the lines of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS).
"This is very important step because we need experts. You can't have a commissioner of income tax sitting in SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) deciding certain matters. We need experts in regulatory laws by which a common man will get the benefit," he said.
Citing the example of electricity tariff, he said the regulator may apply amortization principle to bring down the cost.
"The common man will get the electricity at much cheaper rate. Similarly, we can bring in least cost methods," he said.
Justice Kapadia called for convergence.
"Now the time has come when we should not segregate economics and other fields, including technology from law. This is how law should develop and this is how you can take equality to poor people."