CJI Chandrachud terms bar and bench as stakeholders of justice delivery system, calls for strong relation between them
Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Saturday stressed on the need for a strong relation between the bar and the bench, stating that both were stakeholders of justice delivery system and that there should be trust and coordination in their functioning.
Speaking after laying the foundation stone for additional court buildings in the District Court campus at Madurai in Tamil Nadu, the CJI said that it was natural for the bar to have issues with functioning of court administration, however, the lawyer community should resort to deliberation and discussion before imploring the option of strike.
Calling the Supreme Court not the SC of Tilak Marg, but of the entire nation, the CJI said they had introduced a hybrid system by which lawyers had the choice to appear before the Apex Court either physically or virtually.
The facility has enabled seamless connection between a judge sitting in New Delhi and an advocate residing in Vellore or Virudhunagar, he pointed out.
Speaking about live streaming of all constitutional cases, he said this provided students from Government Law Colleges in Madurai or Trichy an opportunity to watch the proceedings in the Supreme Court and get educated on how the law was being evolved by the top court of the country.
He said while many law students were not able to pursue internships in Delhi owing to distance and limitation on economic capacity, access to court proceedings would help in bridging the barrier. He said it further ensured access to the Supreme Court for lawyers and students not residing in Delhi.
During the pandemic, 2.62 crore cases were heard by the High Courts and District judiciary through video conferencing. The Apex Court had heard 4,13,537 cases through video conference (VC) from March 23, 2020 to February 13, 2023.
The use of this modern technology helped the courts in reaching out to the citizens. Opening up the facilities of the Supreme Court to lawyers all over the country would also enable a reduction in cost. Technology has thus helped to make SC truly a National Court, he observed.
Speaking about the demand to enable use of Tamil as an official language in the High Court, he said it would perhaps need a constitutional amendment. Talking about the language barrier, the CJI said English was not the first language of Indians, who preferred having conversation in their mother tongue.
The CJI requested the judges to encourage young lawyers and not let language be an impediment for representation.
He said all young lawyers facing difficulty in communicating in English should not feel demotivated, since the Supreme Court has started translating judgments in other official languages recognised by the Constitution, including Tamil, with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The step would help in localising the justice delivery system, as well as bring the judiciary closer to the citizens, noted the CJI.
This would go a long way in not only bringing courts closer to the citizens but also help lawyers, who were not conversant with English language, to keep up with the developments in law, he added.
The CJI said all Supreme Court judgements were made available to the citizens by private law publishers for which they had to pay somewhere between Rs 30,000-Rs 50,000 subscription fee per year.
Since young lawyers could not afford this, he said one of the first steps he took as CJI was to digitise all the 34000 judgements of the Apex Court. These judgments were now available free of charge not merely to Indian citizens, but globally.
Speaking about the free text search engine accessible by citizens across India, the CJI said the IIT Madras has provided an AI-based software for translating judgments, which requires human verification.
The CJI revealed that he has requested all High Courts across the country to constitute a team of retired district judges, who would verify the correctness of the translation. He revealed that the Apex Court was using its own funds to ensure that translations were put out.
He said so far, 4428 judgements have been translated in 14 languages, including 4243 in Hindi, 52 in Tamil, 29 in Malayalam, 28 in Telugu, 26 in Odia, 17 in Kannada, 14 in Marathi, four each in Punjabi and Assamese, three each in Gujarati, Nepali and Urdu, and one each in Khasi and Garo.
He requested the Tamil Nadu government to take this up as a mission and said with its commitment to infrastructure, this would be a joint mission for everyone to reach out to the citizens
Speaking about the High Court verdicts, he said all the judgements of High Courts should also be translated to all regional languages in India.
As per the CJI, the judgment search portal of e-committee of SC had 111685 judgements of the High Courts, all available free of charge. Out of these, 876000 were from TN, pointed out the CJI and urged the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to take up the translation of these judgements.
The translated verdicts could be made available to the police stations, education officers, Collectors and Tahsildars. There was so much potential in terms of technology and only a little bit of imagination, he added.
The CJI praised the State of Tamil Nadu for truly living up to its reputation. He said last year, the then CJI (Justice N.V. Ramana) visited Chennai to lay the foundation for a nine-storey building (administrative block for the Madras High Court). Less than a year later, the state has another project, he said, adding Tamil Nadu was really leading the way in boosting the infrastructure of the court system.
Highlighting the deplorable condition of courts across the country, he said in some buildings, lawyers and judges did not have even basic facilities like washrooms or sanitary napkin dispensers for lady lawyers. Studies have shown that a comfortable working environment enhanced work output. Therefore, the administrators should talk to the stakeholders and take their demands during construction, he suggested.
Regarding inclusion as a principal factor for appointment of judges, the CJI said the earlier recommendation made by the six-member Supreme Court Collegium had laid down factors for consideration, which included representation to members from marginalised communities, women and other backward classes, besides all High Courts to the best possible extent.