Make judicial system accessible, affordable and understandable to the common man: Vice President

NEW DELHI: M. Venkaiah Naidu, the vice-president said today that inordinate delay, cost of legal processes and inaccessibility are impeding the effective delivery of justice to the common man. Referring to Gandhiji’s talisman, Naidu said that the “the poorest man in want of justice” must be the prime motivator of legal practitioners in their thoughts and actions.

Underscoring the importance of restoring public confidence in the system, Naidu called for the disposal of criminal cases related to public functionaries in a speedy, dispassionate, objective manner. For this purpose, special courts can be constituted to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving public servants and elected representatives, the Vice President suggested. He also proposed separate fast track courts for resolving electoral cases and to look into electoral malpractices. He also opined that defection cases in legislatures should be dealt with expeditiously in a time bound manner.

Naidu expressed concern over recent happenings in the legislature of Himachal Pradesh and other states. He called for public representatives to have the highest ethical standards and exemplary conduct in every forum. Warning against frequent disruptions of House proceedings, he said the ‘only way forward for every problem is to discuss, debate and decide and not disrupt’.

Speaking at the 11th Convocation to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, the Vice President urged the graduates to strive hard to excel in their profession, while also making the judicial system accessible, affordable and understandable for every citizen. Calling for a change in the colonial mindset, the Vice President also wanted the educational institutions and courts to adopt indigenous dresses during convocations and court proceedings.

Calling judiciary, a ‘key pillar of our polity’, Shri Naidu said it is our duty to ensure that we collectively improve the processes and achieve higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency. We need to re-invent, revamp and redefine the way we administer justice and enforce the rule of law, the Vice President said.

Noting the issue of accessibility, Shri Naidu said the cost of legal processes is one of the major impediments in securing justice to all. Noting the hidden costs for people in availing the legal route, Naidu suggested innovations like Lok Adalats and mobile courts be leveraged wherever feasible to improve access. Along with this, streamlining free legal aid mechanisms and lawyers offering ‘pro-bono’ services for poor litigants can help in reducing out-of-pocket expenditure for the underprivileged, he said. He added that the system needs to be brought closer to the people by conducting court proceedings and delivering judgments in the language of local people.

Vice president also observed that pendency in cases is also a serious concern. Underscoring the importance of timely justice, he suggested we find systemic solutions to solve the nearly 4 crore pending cases in the country, with most cases stuck in the lower courts, where around 87 percent of the total pending cases lie. 

The Vice President outlined a few measures to tackle this problem. He suggested that frequent adjournments could be avoided and except in extraordinary situations, we can develop a Standard Operating Procedure that limits the number of adjournments to a reasonable number like one or two. He also suggested that alternative dispute redress mechanisms like Lok Adalats may have to be fully leveraged for speedy disposal of cases. He added that appointments to the courts must also be expedited and vacancies must be filled in a time-bound manner. This will bring great productivity gains especially in the lower courts, he observed.

Implementing these measures and bringing in a speedier judicial process will not only provide timely justice to the aggrieved persons but also improve the business environment in the country, Shri Naidu noted. Highlighting India as a prime investment destination, he advised that in order to cement our place in the world of business, along with a predictable policy regime, we must also ensure a sound, hassle-free judicial system which can dispose of appeals in a time bound-manner.

Emphasising the role of technology as a driving force for improving justice delivery, the Vice President encouraged the graduates to fully leverage technology to improve access, lower costs and reduce pendency. He advised the bar and bench to effectively utilize Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and to go for an accelerated digitization of court records under the National Judicial Data Grid. He also referred to the increased practice of online courts and e-filing during the pandemic and observed how they can reduce the associated costs with courts and improve ease of doing business.