Underlining that the ease of justice is equally necessary as ease of living or ease of doing business in this era when India is celebrating 75 years of Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday lauded efforts to adopt technology in the justice-delivery mechanism.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the first All India District Legal Services Authorities meet at Vigyan Bhavan here, the PM said that when Bhim/UPI was introduced a few years back, there were some who felt that it would remain limited to a small sector. “But today we see digital payments happening even in villages,” he said, adding that “40 per cent of all real-time digital payments in the world happen in India”.
The PM said there is no better time for using technology in justice delivery than now when there is so much natural ability for innovation and adaptation.
Modi said he is happy that under the monitoring of the Supreme Court, the country’s justice mechanism is moving fast in the direction of adopting technology in its work.
He said that “under the e-Courts Mission, virtual courts are being started in the country. 24-hour courts have started functioning for crimes like traffic violations. Video conferencing infrastructure is also being expanded in the courts for the convenience of the people.”
“I’m told that more than 1 crore cases have so far been heard by district courts through video conferencing and about 60 lakh cases were heard by high courts and Supreme Court,” he said, adding that “what was started as an alternative during the Corona season has now become a part of the system. This is proof that our judicial system is committed to the ancient Indian values of justice and, at the same time, is ready to match the realities of the 21st Century.”
The PM said that judicial infrastructure has a significant role to play in the delivery of justice and added that in the last 8 years, work has been done at a fast pace to improve the infrastructure and Rs 9,000 crore was spent on this. This, he said, will increase the pace of justice delivery.
The PM said that technology can also play a big role in ensuring that common citizens are aware of their rights and duties in the Constitution.
Reiterating that Amrit Kaal is a period of duty, the Prime Minister said “we have to work on the areas that have remained neglected so far”.
Pointing to the need for sensitivity to undertrial prisoners, he said there are many still waiting for justice. He said that the district legal services authorities can take up the responsibility of providing legal aid to such prisoners. The PM also appealed to the district judges, as chairpersons of undertrial review committees, to expedite the release of undertrial prisoners.
Addressing the gathering, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that though the Constitution promises social, economic and political justice to every citizen, “the reality is that, today, only a small percentage of our population can approach the justice delivery system, when in need” and “majority of the people suffer in silence, lacking awareness and necessary means”.
“Modern India was built around the goal of removing the disparities in society,” he said and added that “project democracy is about providing a space for participation of all. Participation will not be possible without social emancipation. Access to justice is a tool for social emancipation”.
The CJI said that “wherever I go, I always attempt to project the achievements of the Indian judiciary in winning the trust and faith of the people. But if we intend to serve the people better, we need to flag the issues which hinder our functioning. There is no meaning in camouflaging or hiding the problems. If we don’t discuss these issues, if matters of pressing concern are not addressed, then the system will cripple” and “I fear, we may be unable to fulfill our constitutional mandate of social justice”. He urged the participants “therefore, to discuss, debate and decide” and added, “this is the principle I have been following all through”.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju flagged the pendency of cases in family courts.
He pointed out that more than 11 lakh cases are pending in the various family courts and asked why children should suffer because of the problems between adults. He urged the district judges to take the lead to remedy this and assured that the Center and states will cooperate in the effort.