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Cut litigation cost, bring down backlog: Manmohan

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greeting CJI-designate S.H. Kapadia at the inauguration of a national conference at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bar Association of India in New Delhi on Saturday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greeting CJI-designate S.H. Kapadia at the inauguration of a national conference at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bar Association of India in New Delhi on Saturday.

P. Sunderarajan

Equality before law cannot become a living reality if ordinary citizens do not have access to justice at affordable cost

e-courts in every High Court, district court

Media has role to play in good governance: CJI

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday called for a concerted effort by the government, the judiciary and the Bar Association to deal with mounting arrears of court cases and to bring down the litigation cost.

“Equality before law cannot become a living reality if ordinary citizens do not have access to justice at affordable cost.” Recalling the saying “Justice delayed is justice denied,” Dr. Singh emphasised that “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.”

Inaugurating a conference organised here by the Bar Association of India on ‘law and governance' to mark its golden jubilee, Dr. Singh said the role of the legal fraternity could not be confined to courts or advising clients. “It [the role] extends to being an integral part of the 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 magnificent Constitution.”

Noting that one of the conference sessions would be devoted to law and separation of powers, he pointed out that though the jurisdiction of the three organs of the state — the judiciary, the executive and the legislature — was demarcated, it was essential that they worked in tandem to maximise the public good.

Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said it was planned to have one e-court in every High Court and an e-court in one district court in every State within a year.

Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan extolled the judiciary for playing a part in bringing in landmark legislation such as the Right to Information Act and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

Laying stress on promotion of press freedom, he said a free media was essential to generate awareness of the need for equity in development, of environmental concerns and most importantly of improving access to education and healthcare.

“In a democratic set-up like ours, the media has a vital role to play in formulating public opinion against unconstitutional and illegal practices which hamper the growth of liberal values. The activist role of the media has been commendable in ensuring good governance. But, it should also take steps to make the institution more inclusive so that the voices of all sections are presented in a fair manner.”

Chief Justice of India-designate S.H. Kapadia said fundamental rights of citizens and the government's responsibilities could become meaningful only when they were justiciable. Therefore, before anything was declared justiciable, the courts must also consider the economic cost of the exercise.

“Time has, therefore, come for courts to reframe welfare rights under the Constitution as rights to minimum provision rather than a right to equal access.”

The legal education system, he said, should meet the needs of not only the Bar but also trade, commerce and industry, particularly in the context of growing internationalisation of the legal profession.

Bar Association of India president Fali S. Nariman called for greater recognition of and “a far better status” to law professors and teachers as they “moved the hearts and moulded the minds” of future members of the Bar and the Bench.

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