The stark divide between haves and have-nots is still a reality and law must work to alleviate poverty, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said on Sunday.
“Despite our being a part of a welfare state, benefits are not trickling down to the intended beneficiaries at the desired levels. People’s aspiration about leading a dignified life are often met with challenges. One of them, primarily, being poverty,” the CJI said.
Chief Justice Ramana quoted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the impact of poverty and a fragmented society in a country’s growth: “There could be no real freedom without economic freedom” and that “to call a starving man free, is but to mock him”.
He was speaking at a pan-Indian legal awareness and outreach campaign programme which coincided with the birth anniversary of Pandit Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.
Chief Justice Ramana reminded that the “fundamental mission of our Independence struggle was to find life and dignity for all”.
The top judge reminisced how the Independence movement fought and won against the colonial attitude that “poverty is a misfortune for which the law cannot take any responsibility at all”.
“The struggles and aspirations of our people shaped our Constitution, the document which promised us an egalitarian future,” the CJI said.
The CJI said an independent and robust district judiciary was the foremost sign of a healthy judiciary. A woman in distress, a child in care of need, an illegal detainee approach the trial court first.
“The mind of the Indian judiciary can be known to millions largely through the actions of the trial court and the district judiciary. For an overwhelming majority of litigants, what is real and existing is only the district judiciary. Without robust justice delivery system at the grassroot level, we cannot imagine a healthy judiciary,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
The CJI reinforced the need to practice a justice delivery system which reached out to those in need and rendered them help without delay.
The CJI said such people care little for “well-dressed, erudite lawyers or colossal court buildings”.
“All they want is to be relieved of their pain quickly, without exhausting all their resources,” Chief Justice Ramana said.