`Judicial reforms should be at centrestage in fast transforming world`

President Pranab Mukherjee said judicial reforms should be at the centrestage in the fast transforming world in which we live.

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said judicial reforms should be at the centrestage in the fast transforming world in which we live.

“The universal rule that there is nothing constant in this world except change. The only difference could be the speed at which the wheels of transformation may spin. The idea of justice and the manner of its implementation are no exception to this universal rule. Judicial reforms should, therefore, be at the centre stage in the fast transforming world in which we live,” Mukherjee said while inaugurating the International Seminar on Global Trends in Judicial Reforms at a function at Vigyan Bhavan here.

Mukherjee said: “It (judicial reforms) is imperative for enhancing the quality of justice that is at the core of human existence and welfare of any society and it is simply the fundamental goal of all societies.”

“The ultimate goal of securing justice is the primary function of any judicial system. To accomplish it, the existence of the rule of law is a priority, with the highest standards of transparency, and the deliverance of speedy justice at affordable costs, being the two legs that give life and soul to the precept. These are the components that the judiciary should focus on to implement the “justice oriented approach,” Mukherjee said.

He stated that this is the reason why the human civilisation has been locked in a constant struggle to achieve higher standards of fairness and equity. The endeavour is timeless with societies borrowing new practices from each other achieving higher standards of justice and more commonality in laws and procedures in the process, he added.

Mukherjee further said: “It would, therefore, be necessary to effect organizational and procedural changes in the judiciary from time-to-time to address the exigencies of time. Yet the path to achieve it is varied and there is no consensus on the reforms that need to be embraced for it. Different stakeholders may accord different priorities to the changes that need to be made.”

He added that he had full faith in the genius of the Indian judicial system to find the way forward to effect reforms in the judicial system, so as to sustain the faith of the common man in the justice delivery process.

He stated that judicial reform is a continuous process and through constant consultation among stakeholders consensus can be reached to engender changes.

“In the ultimate analysis, however, the efficacy of the judicial system will depend on its capacity to deliver justice to all irrespective of their social or economic standing in the society. As India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated – ‘the judiciary performs a social purpose, that is, to bring about justice, to deliver justice to the people’- ,” the President said.

He, however, cautioned that the three organs of state – executive, legislative, judiciary -- should not step into or play the role that the Constitution has not assigned them.

“The fundamental principle is contained in the assertion of Charles Montesquieu that there can be “no liberty” when either legislative or executive powers are combined in the same entity or when the judicial powers are not separated from the legislative and executive,” Mukherjee said.

He also dwelled on the issue of pendency of court cases and that in India, the delivery of justice was time consuming and expensive.

“The total pendency in the subordinate courts and high courts in the end of 2011 calendar year was over 3.1 crore cases. The pendency in the end of 2012 calendar year in the Supreme Court was over 66000 cases. Delay further adds to the costs. Therefore, in many ways it tantamounts to denying justice and this is against the principle of equality that is the bedrock of democracy,” the President said.

Mukherjee said that there was a need to engineer change to reduce the backlog of court cases and to use the experience of legal luminaries from around the globe to tackle such issues.

“Worldwide experience reveals that important lessons can be gleaned from experiments conducted in different countries,” he added.

Describing judicial reform as a continuous process, the President concluded that only through constant consultation among stakeholders, can a consensus be reached to engender changes.

He said that he was hopeful that various aspects of judicial reforms would be discussed and argued vigorously during the conference.