Make litigation affordable, reduce pending cases: PM
NEW DELHI – “Justice delayed is justice denied”, noted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday, urging the government, the judiciary and lawyers to work together to make litigation affordable and reduce the mounting court cases. “It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied. In this context it is important that concerted cooperative efforts are made by the government, the judiciary and the bar associations to deal with the mounting arrears in our courts and the growing cost of litigation,” the prime minister said. Addressing the golden jubilee conference on ‘Law and Governance’ of the Bar Association of India (BAI) here, the prime minister said equality before law cannot become a “living reality” if justice at affordable cost was not made accessible to ordinary citizens. “The plight of the large number of undertrial prisoners in our jails should move the machinery of justice to speedy corrective measures as part of the process of reforming and improving the quality of governance in our country,” he said. The prime minister also stressed the need for clear demarcation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and the executive and called upon the three organs of the state to respect each other’s domain and work in tandem to maximise the public good. “It is assumed that none of the organs of the state, whether it is judiciary or the executive or the legislature, would exceed its powers as laid down in the constitution,” he said, adding the “doctrine of the separation of powers” is acknowledged as one of the basic features of the constitution. He said the role of the legal fraternity was not confined to courts alone or advising the clients in their business deals. “It extends to being an integral part of our system of administration of justice – and justice not just in the legal sense but justice – social, economic and political as set out in the preamble of our constitution.” The prime minister also urged the bar association to hold fruitful discussions on “important subjects like funding of elections and law and education”.
Speaking on the occasion, Law and Justice Minister M. Veerappa Moily said that as part of judicial reforms, the central government was planning to set up e-courts in the country. Within a year, there would be one e-court each in the high courts and at the district level all over the country. Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan said that over a period of time, the role of state had undergone a great change. In ancient times, the belief was that “men stood for the state but in the modern world, it was the state that stood for the welfare of the people,” he said, adding that good governance involved “transparent, efficient and effective functioning of the state in accordance with the rule of law”. Chief Justice-designate S.H. Kapadia said that it needed to be deliberated if equal access alone would satisfy the requirement of Article 14 of the constitution, which provides for equality before law.
He wondered if it would not be prudent to cover the most needy sections of the society under the schemes like Right to Education, commensurate with the resources of the state. BAI president Fali Nariman cautioned the lawyers to do their bit to improve their image. He said lawyers were seen as a “pain in the neck of judges”, not popular in public perception for their “nasty habit” of demanding high fees and never knowing where to stop when “we start arguments in the court”.