Access to justice must for social emancipation, majority suffer in silence: CJI

Published on Jul 31, 2022 12:51 PM IST

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana lamented that only a small percentage of people can access the justice delivery system while the majority suffer in silence

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana addressed the first All India District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs) meet in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI)
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana addressed the first All India District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs) meet in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI)

Access to justice is a tool for social emancipation, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said on Saturday, lamenting that only a small percentage of people can access the justice delivery system while the majority suffer in silence.

Addressing the first All India District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs) meet on Saturday, the CJI, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance, said: “Project democracy is about providing a space for participation of all. Participation will not be possible without social emancipation. Access to Justice is a tool for social emancipation.”

While modern India was built around the goal of removing the disparities in the society, justice Ramana lamented that the reality is that, today, only a small percentage of the population can approach the justice delivery system, when in need.

“Majority of the people suffer in silence, lacking awareness and necessary means,” said the CJI, highlighting the role of legal aid movement in making justice accessible to all.

Commending the role of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in providing legal assistance to a vast population, the senior most Supreme Court judge said that many of the objectives behind the legal aid movement have been translated to social realities in the last 27 years after the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted in 1987.

“If today we have reached people’s doorstep and have earned their trust, the acclaim goes to the cooperative functioning between the forward-looking judges, spirited advocates and volunteers and governments. I sincerely thank you all,” added the CJI.

Justice Ramana emphasised on the role of the district judiciary as the first point of contact for much of the population.

“The district judiciary is the backbone of the justice delivery system in the world’s largest democracy...Public opinion about the judiciary is primarily based on their experiences with the district judiciary,” he said.

The CJI opined that given the fact that district judges are best placed to understand people’s problems and social issues, strengthening the district judiciary is the need of the hour. “Without any doubt, the District Judiciary is the driving force behind the legal aid movement in India,” he said.

At the same time, justice Ramana urged the judicial officers to flag the issues which may hinder their functioning so that they could serve the people better.

“There is no meaning in camouflaging or hiding the problems. If we don’t discuss these issues, if matters of pressing concern are not addressed, then the system will cripple. I fear, we may be unable to fulfill our Constitutional mandate of social justice,” cautioned the CJI.

Saying that issues of conditions of service, remunerations and infrastructure deserve immediate attention, he expressed hope that all the stakeholders will work together to improve the conditions under which the judges ought to work.

The CJI also flagged the issue of undertrial prisoners, pointing out that NALSA has undertaken the issue as one of its leading projects in which effective representation will also be taken care of.

Also Read | Ease of justice as important as ease of living, ease of doing business: PM Modi

Advocating alternate dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism through lok adalat, gram nyayalayas and mediation and arbitration centres, he said the ADR has the potential to transform the legal landscape of India by providing millions of people a platform to settle their grievances.

“Matters ranging from matrimonial disputes, intergovernmental disputes, government contracts and land acquisition can be attempted to be resolved through mandatory ADR. This will not only reduce pendency and backlog, but also will provide much needed speedy justice to affected parties,” added the CJI.

Technology has emerged as a great enabler, said justice Ramana, asking the district judges to use modern technological tools to enhance the pace of justice delivery.

The first national level meet of DLSAs entail deliberations on creation of an integrated procedure in order to bring homogeneity and synchronisation across the legal services authorities.

There are a total 676 DLSAs in the country that implement various legal aid and awareness programmes under the aegis of NALSA.

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