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Days before he is set to assume the highest judicial position of the largest democracy, Chief Justice of India Designate Ranjan Gogoi has made a significant statement. He said today that he has a plan to try and tackle the problem of pendency of cases which is bringing disrepute to the judiciary and reducing the system to irrelevance.
Speaking at a seminar organised by Youth Bar Association of India, Justice Gogoi said,
“Pendency is bringing a lot of disrepute. In fact if I may say so, it has the potential of making the system irrelevant. The accused in a criminal case is getting a hearing after he has served out the sentence. The parties in a civil proceeding are getting their judgments in the second or third generation.
This is a problem. I would request each of you to kindly give a thought to this and see how you can overcome this difficulty. I don’t think the task is really …. I have a plan and will unfold it and you are welcome to take part in that and participate in the process.”
Justice Gogoi was speaking on the topic ‘Role of Bar and Bench in Social Engineering’ when he chose to digress from the topic and speak a few words on the issues plaguing justice delivery system.
On the topic of social engineering, Gogoi J. said,
“As the architects and engineers are responsible for a good house, you as a lawyer and me as the judge we are responsible for what society is. What we get to see in the society every day, what we get to see how human rights, political rights, social rights of the 130 crores of Indians are delivered.”
He proceeded to quote from a lecture of Justice HR Khanna which was delivered in 1978.
“In ensuring the rule of law, the most significant part is perhaps played by the lawyers. I am not sure whether we give due expression of gratitude to the legal profession. Judges often shine with reflected glory. A good many of the judgments reveal not so much of the legal vision of the judge as of the counsel who argued the case and assisted the judge by forensic arguments in preparing the judgment.
We all remember Chief Justice Marshall for his great judgment in Marbury v. Madison. We should not forget at the same time that for the preparation of the judgment, Marshall J. had the advantage of the written brief of the great lawyer Daniel Webster.
In the words of John Kennedy, Webster could throw thunder balls on the Senate floor, and then stroll a few steps down the corridor and dominate the Supreme Court as the foremost lawyer of his time. The same we can say of our stalwarts who are now no more, of Motilal and Sapru, of Bhulabai and Jinnah, of Munshi and Krishnaswamy Iyer.
Law it has been said does not live in the books, it lives with the professions. Judges tryst with their brief authority may seem to speak more finally but it is only for the moment. In the end, they take their cues from the Bar for it is the Bar which makes the statutes and fabricates the adjustments which they express. It is also the bar which gives new shape and meaning to the words of the statute and puts flesh and blood in their dry bones”
Gogoi J. then proceeded to speak beyond the subject stating that two things were troubling him.
“Permit me to address a few lines on something beyond the subject particularly as the occasion is of the youth Bar.
There are two things that trouble me. The first is pendency”
Pendency is a bringing a lot of disrepute to the system and has the potential of making the system irrelevant, he said.
“It is bringing a lot of disrepute. In fact, if I may say so, it has the potential of making the system irrelevant. The accused in a criminal case is getting a hearing after he has served out the sentence. The parties in a civil proceeding are getting their judgments in the second or third generation.”
He then proceeded to state that he has a plan to try and tackle the issue and will unfold it soon while also seeking the support of the Bar in the endeavour.
“I would request each of you to kindly give a thought to this and see how you can overcome this difficulty. I don’t think the task is really [unclear]. I have a plan and will unfold it and you are welcome to take part in that and participate in the process.”
The second issue which he raised was access to justice.
“The second is providing access to justice to the huge poverty-stricken population of this country.”
He urged the Youth Bar Association of India to offer voluntary legal service towards that end.
“One area where the Youth Bar Association can help is to offer voluntary legal service. It is not actually voluntary as under the present scheme of things, voluntary legal service aid is recognised by grant of a small remuneration. But I assure you the degree of satisfaction that it can bring to each one of you is tremendous.”
Gogoi J. also said that providing access to justice could be the real social engineering.
“This is the social engineering. Not in terms of judgments, not in terms of jurisprudence. We have done well in terms of jurisprudence. Social engineering in providing access to justice, in enabling a person who cannot come to court, to come to the court and traveling beyond legal aid and expanding the scope of legal service to giving each man his due under the law….
For the young friends at the Bar what we need is a different approach and a different way of thinking which I am sure will be forthcoming in the very near future”, concluded the next CJI.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi will take over as CJI on October 3.
Senior Advocates Sidharth Luthra, Jitender Mohan Sharma, Rakesh Kumar Khanna and Dean of Uttaranchal University Rajesh Bahuguna also spoke on the topic.
Advocate Aishwarya Bhati gave the welcome address while President of Youth Bar Association of India Sanpreet Singh Ajmani proposed the vote of thanks.
Watch the full speech below.