Judicial infrastructure neglected after Independence, says CJI Ramana
Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Saturday rued that judicial infrastructure was largely “neglected” after the country got its independence in 1947 and lack of facilities continues to cripple access to justice.
Laying emphasis on strengthening judicial infrastructure, Justice Ramana said poor infrastructure in courts across the country was not only adverse for litigants but also for judicial officers and court staff who were bound to work under deleterious conditions.
“We neglected and failed to focus on providing good infrastructure for courts in India after the British left,” the CJI said at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the National Law University, proposed to be established at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh.
“Courts in India still operate from dilapidated structures, without proper facilities. Such a situation is severely detrimental to the experience of litigants and lawyers. It is an unpleasant work environment for court staff and judges, making it difficult to effectively perform their functions,” Justice Ramana added.
The event was also attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel, Union law minister Kiren Rijiju, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and acting chief justice of Allahabad high court MN Bhandari. Supreme Court judges Vineet Saran, Dinesh Maheshwari, Krishna Murari and Vikram Nath were also present.
During his address, the CJI highlighted the role of National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) in developing concepts of the national court development project and its implementation to build modern and self-sufficient judicial infrastructure.
“NJIC shall be along the lines of different infrastructure development statutory bodies that work towards creating National Assets across the country. One of the design principles that NJIC will follow, is socially responsible and inclusive architecture,” said Justice Ramana.
The judge underlined that sufficient judicial infrastructure can help improve access to justice, by catering to the ever-rising number of cases and litigants, and their changing needs.
NJIC, an ambitious plan by CJI Ramana, envisages collection of actionable data from across the country on requirement and upgradation of court buildings along with ancillary infrastructure. The managing committee to NJIC has to include the CJI and other Supreme Court judges who are in line to become CJI in future, chief justices of high courts and finance secretaries of the Union and state governments. According to the proposal, states would be required to fund modern court complexes through a one-time grant.
Justice Ramana also expressed his concerns about pendency in the Allahabad high court. “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. I request the Allahabad bar and bench, to work together and cooperate to resolve this issue.”
Allahabad high court has the maximum pendency among the 26 high courts across the country. The data submitted by the Uttar Pradesh government in the Supreme Court last month disclosed that around 180,000 criminal cases were pending in the Allahabad high court, which presently has a vacancy of 68 judges. Against the sanctioned strength of 160, the high court currently has 92 judges. In addition to the criminal cases, there are more than 600,000 civil cases pending before the high court.
Justice Ramana placed on record his gratitude for President Ram Nath Kovind over his support to the legal community. “It was his (Kovind’s) idea to translate the judgments of the Supreme Court to vernacular languages to increase access to justice, which has now been implemented. Whenever we meet, he always asks about the welfare of the legal fraternity, and is always thinking of improving the legal aid system for the under privileged,” added the CJI.
At the occasion, President Kovind said to achieve the inclusive ideals of the Indian Constitution, the role of women in the judiciary needs to be increased, while hailing the appointment of three women judges in the Supreme Court last month as a “historic” decision towards women empowerment.
“If we have to achieve the inclusive ideals of our Constitution, then the role of women in the judiciary also has to be increased,” the President added.
The CJI also paid rich tributes to Anand Bhushan Saran, an eminent lawyer and father of Justice Vineet Saran. “Till his last days, he never wavered from his routine and was still working, without ever making excuses of ill health. This earned him universal respect and admiration. Working closely with his son, brother Justice Vineet Saran, I can state that my brother has imbibed some of his best qualities by watching his eminent father.”