The Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in his address to over 650 high court judges and judicial officers, via videoconferencing, said:
“As I demit office in some days, I felt it important to reach out to all of you to convey a sense of satisfaction and great hope that I would carry with me knowing that our institution and its processes rest on the strong shoulders of the finest citizens of my country, who have chosen to lead this life of hard work and sacrifice for the greater cause of justice. During my time at the helm of our institution, I have witnessed how our Institution is fighting against all odds on all front and how each one of yo u at your respective stations have kept the hope of justice resolute amidst disorder and socio – economic upheaval.
In this context, I wish to reiterate it has been indeed a matter of great satisfaction and a n honour to serve the cause of justice, taking forward the constitutional vision that binds our entire nation and its constituents. I wish to remind you that we all are part of an edifice which plays a stellar role in binding the idea of India from the grass – roots till the highest reaches of our nation . It is thus important to remember that in the journey ahead, while serving the citizens as well as the institution itself, in different capacities , both judicial and administrative, we are all bound by the same goals and by the same oath of the Constitution of our Republic. We all have made a choice and taken to ourselves the challenges of life as a Judge, and as I stated earlier, despite the differences in the socio – economic as well as the cultural landscape that we may encounter across the length and breadth of our country, each one of us is bound by the common traditions and the singular pursuit and that is to the cause of justice.
For the leaders and thinkers amongst you today, I wish to share that naysayers have always sought to pull our institution down by calling it a remnant of the Raj. Today, I wish to say it with all emphasis that our Institution may have embarked on its hallowed journey with whatever we inherited from the colonial infrastructure, yet generations of our predecessors burnt the midnight lamp to align the journey and aspirations of our countrymen with the Constitutional Vision, that is not only Indian but has risen from the collective wisdom of this ancient land that stood witness to the rise and fall of many regimes and eras. I have no hesitation in sharing that our legal system is not only Indian but is it also has its roots deeply embedded in the common aspirations that binds all of our countrymen to a single destiny.
As an Institution, we have tried to deliver much more than what is reasonably possible, yet, today each of us is required to deal with new challenges, which unfortunately arise from within and outside of our Court Complexes and our judicial processes. Within our Court Complexes, there is an increasing indifference t o the decorum and discipline that were always the hallmark of our Institution. Sadly, such indifference lies more amongst some of the stakeholders who are part of the justice delivery infrastructure, yet are completely indifferent to its health and progress. I say this with conviction that the leaders and thinkers of the future need to revisit the dynamics and processes of our justice delivery mechanism, if the majesty of the Courts as the sentinels of justice and guardians of the constitutional vision is t o be safeguarded and carried forward. The indifference of such stakeholders to the dignity of our Institution has reached new lows in the recent past, as rank hooliganism and intimidatory behaviour has become the order of the day in some pockets of our Court system. This has to be acknowledged, so that its vicious designs are defeated and the glory of our Institution stands uncompromised.
In this context, let me take this opportunity to assure the youngest amongst you all that as Judges, it certainly is not your business to suffer the belligerency of a handful, who may masquerade as stake – holders but are hostile to legitimate processes and would go to any length to brow – beat the seekers of truth and justice before us. I would like to reiterate that, in our Constitutional order, the High Courts have a major role to play as the guardian authority, of their own affairs as well as of the District and the sub-ordinate Courts and all other judicial institutions under their watch.
I would say that the time has com e that the High Courts shake off the sense of any inertia and play an active part as the true guardian of all Court complexes under their jurisdiction as well as of the judicial process, besides safeguarding the well – being of our Judges and the Magistrates there. The High Courts must be watchful that Court Complexes as well as their processes and functioning are kept away from the influence of local factors and that they function as one unit across their entire jurisdiction. As an Institution, it is time that we heavily invest in vigilance functions that would keep our Court Complexes, our judicial processes, our Judges and our staff safe from the clutches of such local influences who do not have any allegiance to our Institution but use our processes to carry out their nefarious designs.
Another challenge that has been foisted at us, at all levels of the national discourse, is the topic of ‘pendency’. I call it a ‘topic’ as it indeed is nothing more than a reckless use of that word, whose meaning and purports are clear to none, even as its use for motivated onslaughts on our Institution and to pull us down, have been concerted and repetitive over the last decade or so. I have personally supervised the setting up of District Court Management System over the NJDG network, which was designed not as a tool to monitor, but as one for real time assessment, and I must share that its outcome have been eye-opening. An in-house study with real time data has shown us that no less than 48% percent of so – called pendency figures in criminal matters relate to matters where the process awaits appearance or production of the accused. Similarly, as much as 23% of pendency figures on the civil side relates to matters which are fixed for ‘appearance of parties’. This defies logic and sound reasoning. In fact, this is almost insane to include in the figure that would constitute pendency before us. The future leaders would have to seriously dwell on this word, define it and install a framework, so that nothing which is not a pendency before a Judge, is ever framed as a pendency figure of our Institution. The line needs to be clearly drawn, so that responsibilities of all other stakeholders in the judicial processes are made clear and they be held responsible for their deficiencies. Young judges need to work hard towards refining their skills and capabilities to improve the quality of justice, rather than to be troubled by this perception of pendency.
It has to be understood that the functioning of a Court is unique in the sense that the deliverables do not conform to a single chain of command, and they are a formulation that arise out of multi stake-holders programme where neither of the stake – holders is under the control or command of the other. In that view the filing of a case and its ripening to the stage where the matter is to be heard by a Judge does not follow a route that is any ways similar to that of a Government file which moves in a single vertical hierarchy and may be expected to be closed within its ‘prescribed life span’. The Governments and their agencies and their plans move from one financial year to another, while a case filed before a Court does not and cannot be said to be ready for disposal within any fixed tenure.
It needs to be understood by all concerned that Judges do not have administrative control over the litigants neither over their Ld. Advocates. It is certainly needs to be said especially in light of events that have befall en our institution across the country over the past few years that Ld. Advocates and the Bar Associations as well as their elected representatives in the Bar Council have to sit down and introspect as to their actual role in getting matters ready for hearing in this regard. In my view self – regulation and self – realisation amongst the members of the Bar that they are officers of the Court would be a better way ahead then any legislative mandate that might come in case the citizenry make it their focus in a democracy to usher in such a change.
To all my dear Judges and Magistrates posted in the Districts, I call upon each of you to remember that you all are the face of the institution and it is through your conduct, both inside the Court Room and outside, that set s you apart from other public servants at your station. Yet, you must all strive in the daily discharge of your official business to renew the assurances of our Institution to the members of the public within your jurisdiction. It does not serve our Institution well if the process as well as the outcome that citizens may obtain from the Court Houses vary to an extent where they start to seem different from each other. I am aware that many among you have to face daily challenges in the form of missing infrastructure or even reckless action from local members of the Bar, yet do not forget ever that you are a part of a greater narrative that has a major role in unifying and integrating the citizenry and strengthening the justice delivery architecture of t he nation. In that context, each one of you is a nation builder and you r day – to – day duties towards citizens at large and to the litigants in particular are all part of one single mechanism. Let me assure each one of you, who has joined us today from the Districts and the outlying stations that different levels of your Institution are working towards minimizing if not eliminating your hardships and difficulties. I for one always considered the challenges of the job and the hardships of life to be stimulating and intoxicating making the grit and determination stronger.
I would bring this address to a close, with a word of thanks to all the Chief Justices and Hon’ble Judges who have worked hard to bring down the 50 year and 25 year pendency figures across the board. Please continue the good work, and let our flag keep flying high in the times ahead.
Thank you all. Jai Hind.”