By Adv. R. S. Agrawal :
The CJI stated that while celebrating Constitution Day, we must also reflect on the challenges that lie ahead. For as long as justice-social, political and economic-remains out of reach of even a single individual, our job remains unfinished.
CHIEF Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde has set the agenda for courts in the country for his 17 months’ tenure as head of the Judiciary, in his major address on the occasion of Constitution Day Celebrations on November 26, 2019 with the declaration that “Let us ensure that we continue to work tirelessly in securing justice for the very last person in the remotest corner of the nation”.
In this context, he recalled the poignant words of Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary the nation has celebrated this year, that “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” The CJI stated that while celebrating Constitution Day, we must also reflect on the challenges that lie ahead. For as long as justice-social, political and economic- remains out of reach of even a single individual, our job remains unfinished.
The CJI began his speech with a quotation from the thoughts expressed by a young Dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly from Kerala, Dakshani Velayudhan regarding the Constitution: “A Constituent Assembly not only frames a Constitution, but also gives the people a new framework of life. To frame a Constitution is an easy job, because there are many models for us to imitate. But to renew a people on a new foundation requires the synthetic vision of a planner. The Independent Sovereign Republic of India plans a free society…In the Indian Republic of tomorrow, the power will come from the people.”
The Constituent Assembly members knew, they were shaping lives, livelihoods and the culture of every single citizen of India. It is, therefore, important for us to remember that this document is not a legal framework to conduct the affairs of our nation but indeed a ‘framework of life’ for all the citizens of the nation. To use the words of Justice Vivian Bose, “it is a way of life”. The Constitution does not belong to individuals in black robes, that is lawyers or judges, or individuals who have been duly elected, or even the Government, but belongs to each and every individual of this country. The revolutionary recognition of universal adult franchise in 1949 was a solemn affirmation of vesting constitutionalism and constitutional culture with the people of India.
When the concept of universal suffrage was first formulated, the village folk as well as certain individuals were skeptical about the practicality of the elections, to which the President of the Constituent Assembly’ s reply was: “in my opinion our people possess intelligence and common sense. They also have a culture which the sophisticated people of today may not appreciate , but which is solid.” And then went on to say-“I have, therefore no doubt in my mind that if things are explained to them, they will not only be able to pick up the technique of election, but will be able to cast their votes in an intelligent manner and I have, therefore, no misgivings about the future, on their account.”
The CJI stated with confidence that the citizens of the country have not betrayed the faith that Dr. Rajendra Prasad had reposed in them. The country has seen testing times when the constitutional processes were challenged, the democratic roots were subverted and yet we are here celebrating 70 years of this document. What we are celebrating is not merely the text of the Constitution or the voluminous judgements telling us what the Constitution is, but in fact, the constitutional culture that has survived 70 years. The CJI has placed great emphasis on the paramount role of the Judge in settlement of disputes in an efficient and speedy manner and stated that “demands of justice mean that we will have to deal with both the backlog of cases and the flow of new cases to our courts” together. The CJI has no doubt that while technology may aid a judge, it is not a substitute for one.
The real opportunity that lies before us is to free up time and mind space for judges to adjudicate increasingly complex cases that require greater time for consideration and application of mind. At the turn of this new decade, the judiciary has good fortune of building on the work of many who have gone before us. While technology has enabled it to go paperless in many courts and go digital, if not all the way then substantially. In many courts now have the benefit of modern Artificial Intelligence tools that will assist in improving the efficiency of our justice system through sophisticated and contextual automation of existing repetitive non-judicial tasks and functions to reduce pendency, expedite judicial adjudication and create more time for judges to resolve complex cases.
The CJI, though recognised that machines are no substitute for the knowledge and wisdom of judges and that the law functions in uniquely complex environment, but still is of the view that lawyers and judges are best placed to navigate. This new mission seeks to free up more time for lawyers and judges to focus on the delivery and dispensation of justice to all. It is in this pursuit of diversity, inclusivity and efficiency that an artificial powered law focused translation engine will aid timely and quality translation and thereby can help improve the efficiency of the judicial delivery system.
This has been the first endeavour, he launched on the Constitution Day. Another important thing the CJI underscored as equally important is Subordinate Judiciary. The judges there constitute the backbone of the System. While constitutional courts may decide larger questions of law, the subordinate judiciary interacts at a much deeper level with the citizenry of the country. They decide the daily disputes of parties and reinforce the faith of the citizens in the System. In this context, it is alarming situation at that level due to inadequate infrastructure and lack of finances being provided to set it right. The CJI has assured that he intends to give deeper attention and reflection on the issues ailing the subordinate judiciary.