Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Tuesday announced a plan to expand the Supreme Court with 27 additional courts and 51 judges’ chambers.
Currently, the Supreme Court has 17 courtrooms and two registrar courts. Its judicial strength as of now is 32.
In his address at the 77th Independence Day celebrations at the Supreme Court lawns, Chief Justice Chandrachud said an “overhaul” of the court infrastructure was necessary on a priority basis to make courts more accessible and inclusive. The top judge said the emphasis in the new project would be on modernising the judicial infrastructure.
“We plan to expand the Supreme Court by constructing a new building to accommodate 27 additional courts, 51 judges’ chambers, 4 registrar court rooms, 16 registrar chambers, and other requisite facilities for lawyers and litigants. This expansion is proposed in two phases,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.
The CJI’s speech did not confine itself to just an announcement of the infrastructure projects.
Chief Justice Chandrachud also spoke on the important role judiciary played in ensuring that “institutions of governance function within the defined constitutional limits”.
He also highlighted that courts provide a “safe democratic space for individuals to seek protection of their rights and liberties”.
Access to justice
“The Supreme Court particularly has been the vanguard of institutional governance by enhancing access to justice and promoting constitutional values. The past 76 years suggest that the history of the Indian judiciary is the history of the daily life struggles of the Indian people. If our history teaches us anything, it is this — that no matter is big or small for the courts,” Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed a gathering of judges, lawyers and the public.
The CJI said that by examining and delivering judgments on disputes and grievances, the courts were merely performing their plain constitutional duty.
Elaborating on the expansion of the Supreme Court through the proposed two-phase project, the CJI said in the first stage, the court museum and annexe building would be demolished to construct a new building with 15 courtrooms, judges’ chambers, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) library, offices for the SCBA and Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAoRA) office-bearers, canteen, women lawyers bar room and other facilities.
In the next phase, some of the portion of the existing court complex would be demolished for the construction of the second part of the new building to accommodate 12 courtrooms, judges’ chambers, registrar courts, and lounge for SCBA and SCAoRA.
“The new building will reflect the constitutional aspirations, beliefs, and priorities of the Indian people, in addition to providing a space which facilitates access to justice,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.
Importance of technology
The CJI highlighted the importance of technology as the “best tool” courts could wield against the inefficiency and opacity in judicial processes and to overcome the procedural barriers to justice.
“Phase III of the e-Courts project seeks to revolutionise the working of courts in India by inter-linking of all courts across the country, setting up the infrastructure of paperless court, digitisation of court records, and setting up advanced e-sewa kendras in all court complexes,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.
Technology is also being used by the top court to make its premises and services disabled-friendly. “The court had operationalised screen readable website and case files to remove the barriers faced by the blind community in accessing the court services,” the CJI noted.