“People are confident that they will get relief and justice from the judiciary. They know that when things go wrong, the judiciary will stand by them. The Indian Supreme Court is the guardian of the largest democracy,” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said.
Describing the Supreme Court as the “guardian of the largest democracy,” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said Saturday that people of India “know that when things go wrong, the judiciary will stand by them”.
Addressing the inaugural India-Singapore Mediation Summit 2021 where he and Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon were keynote speakers, CJI Ramana said: “The Indian judicial system is unique not only because of a written Constitution, but also because of the immense faith reposed by the people in the system.”
“People are confident that they will get relief and justice from the judiciary. It gives them the strength to pursue a dispute. They know that when things go wrong, the judiciary will stand by them. The Indian Supreme Court is the guardian of the largest democracy,” he said.
“The Constitution gives wide ranging powers and jurisdiction to do complete justice between the parties to bring to life the motto of the Indian Supreme Court, ‘Yato Dharmastato Jaya’, that is, ‘Where there is dharma, there is victory’,” he said.
On Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms, the CJI said the Mahabharata “actually provides an example of an early attempt at mediation as a conflict resolution tool, where Lord Krishna attempted to mediate the dispute between the Pandavas and Kauravas”.
Mediation as a concept, he said, is deeply embedded in the Indian ethos and long before the arrival of the British adversarial system in India, various forms of mediation were being practised as a method of dispute resolution. But the establishment of the British courts system in 1775, he said, marked the erosion of community-based indigenous dispute resolution mechanisms in India.
A movement, he said, needs to be launched to popularise mediation as a cheaper and faster dispute resolution mechanism. “Prescribing mediation as a mandatory first step for resolution of every allowable dispute will go a long way in promoting mediation,” he said, adding that “perhaps, an omnibus law in this regard is needed to fill the vacuum”.
On the question of judicial delays, he said “pendency… is not a useful indicator of how well, or poorly, a system is doing” since the term is used to refer to all cases which have not yet been disposed, without any reference to how long a case has spent in the judicial system.
“This would mean that a case which was filed yesterday gets added to the pendency statistics. This is, therefore, not a useful indicator of how well, or poorly, a system is doing,” he said.
The “often-quoted statistic that ‘pendency’ in Indian courts has reached 45 million cases, which is perceived as the inability of the Indian judiciary to cope with the case load… is an overstatement and an uncharitable analysis”.
One of the factors contributing to judicial delays in India is “‘luxurious litigation’… where parties with resources attempt to frustrate the judicial process and delay it by filing numerous proceedings across the judicial system,” he said, adding that the “prevailing pandemic has also contributed to our woes”.
“ADR mechanisms, particularly mediation and conciliation, can reduce pendency, save resources and time, and allow litigants a degree of control over the process and outcome of their dispute resolution process,” he said.
“There are nearly 43,000 mediation centres in India,” the CJI said, adding “data suggests that since 2005, nearly 3.22 million cases have been referred and nearly 1 million cases have been settled by mediation up to March 2021”.
Addressing a separate event — the virtual launch of live streaming of Gujarat High Court proceedings — the CJI said while live streaming of judicial proceedings may make judges “feel the pressure of public scrutiny”, a judge must stand up “against the popular perception” if need be.
Underlining that a judge cannot be swayed by popular opinion, the CJI said: “Although a step in the right direction, one must tread the path with caution. At times, live streaming of proceedings may become a double-edged sword… judges might feel the pressure of public scrutiny, which may ultimately result in a stressful environment that may not be conducive to justice dispensation.”
“A judge must remember: even if justice commands standing up against the popular perception, he must do so out of his commitment to the oath he took under the Constitution. A judge cannot be swayed by popular opinion. Yes, with increased public gaze, he might become a subject of multiple debates, (but) that should never deter him from his duty to protect the right of one against the might of many. Always remember, as a repository of people’s faith, a judge cannot afford to lose objectivity.”
He said “multiple incorrect notions still prevail in the minds of the public regarding the justice delivery system,” and with live streaming of proceedings, the “transmission loss” caused by the media, the agents of transmission, can be cured.
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