‘Level playing field will allow more women in judiciary’: CJI Chandrachud at HTLS 2023
HTLS 2023: DY Chandrachud spoke on the same-sex marriage hearing and said he respects the judgment of his other colleagues.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said more women will enter into judiciary if there is a level playing field. Speaking on the fifth and final day of the 21st edition of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2023, he delved into the discussion on diverse barriers in the legal system, emphasising the need to redefine "merit" in a more inclusive sense, ensuring opportunities for the marginalised.
“We need to redefine merit in an inclusive sense… If you open a level playing field for entry, you will have more women in the judiciary. Unless we start increasing the inflow of marginalised persons at the entry level, we cannot achieve their fair share,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The CJI also underlined the language barriers. “English was construed as a central language that binds our institution together but that is not the language people speak. We need to open up our courts to people,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Recalling women's participation during Covid-19 days, the CJI said, “It was a good learning curve... During video-conferencing, we found more women arguing cases… The idea of live streaming is part of a process of confidence building so that people understand what we do. We have provided for translation of our judgments in regional languages… We now have a transcription of proceedings....instantaneously prepared...It is to create greater transparency," said.
Sign language interpreter
“We opened up our space for a sign language interpreter too recently. The accessibility audit was conducted in our court...I just got the report and we are in the process of implementing it,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Handbooks for LGBTQI and language against women
Speaking on barriers for LGBTQI and women, the chief justice of India said, “We recently prepared two handbooks - one for LGBTQI…barriers they experience in courts. Second, a handbook on the language we employ against women… This handbook is on gender stereotypes to ensure there is some form of discourse that is just not acceptable in our judicial system,” Justice Chandrachud said at the summit.
‘In process of digitising entire records of all courts’
Justice Chandrachud shed light on the digitisation efforts in the legal system, with the implementation of phase 3 of the e-court project. The aim is to create a more citizen-centric judiciary, bringing the courts closer to the people, he said.
“The technology employed in the judicial system is democratising access to justice. Better access to courts reduces the cost of litigation. Technology is a game changer...We are in the process of digitising the entire records of all courts,” he said.
The CJI said the colonial era model must change. “It created awe among citizens. We communicate our orders through mail to jails. Faster software allows us to reach the jails in the remotest corner of the country. We are opening our private space to citizens. We have put our data of the Supreme Court on NJDG,” Justice Chandrachud said.
‘Respect judgment of my other colleagues on same-sex marriage’
The CJI emphasised the unique role of judges, highlighting that their non-elected status is not a deficiency but a strength. Courts are entrusted with the duty to protect fundamental values. Sometimes, they are ahead of their times, such as in environmental protection, he said. He reflected on his dissent in the same-sex equality matter, advocating for the recognition of the right to form unions.
"In same-sex marriage, in my dissenting view, I respect the judgment of my other colleagues. Judges don't look at how society will look at their decisions. Judges go by constitutional morality and not public morality. Fraternity, human dignity, personal morality and equality.
On retirement age of judges
Justice Chandrachud also shared his perspective on the retirement age of judges, highlighting the difference in the Indian model compared to the American Supreme Court. "While the American system has no age of retirement for judges, in India, judges do retire. I think it's important that judges must retire because I think it is too much of a responsibility to cast on human beings in terms of their own infallibility by postulating that they should not retire from office. Judges are human beings, they are prone to errors. It's important to pass on the mantle to succeeding generations who would be able to point out the error of the past," he said.