Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday mooted a KYC drive–‘Know Your Constitution’–to popularise the document similar to the KYC (know your customer) practice in the corporate world even as the union law minister lamented the use of terms like “judicial barbarism” to attack the courts.
PM Modi made the suggestion on the occasion of the Constitution day celebrations during which Attorney General K K Venugopal called for ensuring that justice delivery system is able to “wipe every tear from every eye”. Venugopal also wanted urgent steps to fill up vacancies in the subordinate judiciary and to deal with the problem of huge pendency of cases.
Two separate virtual events were organized by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Bar Association respectively to celebrate the 71st anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution.
In his inaugural address at the celebrations organised by the Supreme Court, President Ram Nath Kovind said cost is the “top most” hurdle in improving “access to justice for all”. He also commended the judiciary and the Bar for not letting the COVID-19 pandemic come in the way of fulfilling the duty of securing justice for the citizens.
Chief Justice of India S A Bobde spoke on restrictions on freedom of speech, and said they are in the interest of reputation of individuals and institutions. “Nothing is conferred as a right of freedom of speech in absolute and untrammelled terms.”
Addressing the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference in Kevadia in Gujarat via video conference, Prime Minister Modi called for raising awareness about the Constitution, saying it is our guiding light to take on challenges in the 21st century and national interest should be our basis for every decision.
He also referred to the practice of KYC (know your customer) in the corporate world and said there should be a similar KYC drive in the form of “Know Your Constitution” to popularise the Constitution and its different features.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while voicing his concern over attacks on the Supreme Court for its judicial functions, asked people not to use expressions like “judicial barbarism” in criticising judgements or orders.
“There may be shortcomings, but we need to be proud of our judiciary as it has held the hands of the poor and the underprivileged.”
“Of late there has been a disturbing trend. Some people have a view as to how on a particular case filed the judgement should be. Then there are narratives in newspapers and campaign in social media as to what kind of judgement should have come.
“Very gently I must comment today that the expressions like judicial barbarism is totally unacceptable. Regardless of the stature of those who mentioned these things about our judiciary,” Prasad said.
The minister said if the judiciary has to be independent then the judges have to be left free and the justice delivery system cannot play to the gallery.
He also complimented the judiciary for hearing over 49 lakh cases digitally during the challenging times of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
In his address, CJI Bobde said, “The framers of the Constitution have struck a resilient balance between the liberty and the rights and conditions on which the states can deny the freedom of speech and the restrictions on it are in the interest of the reputation of individuals and institutions. Nothing is conferred as a right of freedom of speech in absolute and untrammelled terms.”
“The judiciary has been entrusted with the balancing of the interest of the state and freedom granted by the Constitution to the people,” the CJI said, adding that “It has to the large extent operated on the wisdom of the old saying while balancing rights that your right to swing your arms end where my nose begins”.
Venugopal said that rich and powerful would be able to stick out the 30-year time but it is a “daunting task” for the upper middle class, middle class and poor persons to wait for 30 years to get justice.
“Injustice on account of delay would be a threat to judiciary everywhere and this is what Martin Luther King had said,” he said, while stressing that a collective effort was needed to see that “the justice delivery system is able to wipe every tear from every eye”, he added.
Venugopal said as per national judicial data grid, around 3.61 crore cases are pending as on today in courts across the country and the “extremely sad” part is that around 4.29 lakh cases are pending for over 30 years.
Stressing on the need to increase the sanctioned strength of judges, the top law officer said, “I think it is an urgent matter for the state governments to look into this problem and also for the Union of India to take on the responsibility of ensuring that the state governments fill up the vacancy in subordinate courts”.
“If we do not do so, people will believe that the justice delivery system is slowly collapsing,” he said, adding that one of the foremost goals of the Constitution is access to justice for one and for all.”
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