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International Judicial Conference: Judiciary and the changing world— Full text of Justice NV Ramana’s speech

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Justice NV Ramana delivered the introductory address at the Inauguration of the International Judicial Conference 2020 at the Supreme Court of India on Saturday.

Read the full text here:

  1. I must state that it gives me great pleasure to welcome this august gathering comprising of judges, jurists and law practitioners from across the world, and to introduce the topics that we are going to discuss in this
  2. The magnitude of the event is compounded by the fact that we have representatives frommore than 24 countries who have come to share their experience with us. This reminds meof the Indian ethos, which strongly believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. This Sanskrit phase means that the entire world constitutes one family. This conference provides a wonderful opportunity to meet our brothers and sisters from across continents and form lasting relations.
  3. Presently our globalized world is closer than it seems. Issues are common and solutions need to be unanimous. Major issues which are plaguing the world, including the Indian subcontinent, are terrorism, cyber-crimes, environmental degradation and health.
  4. For example, terrorism is one of the main issues which has affected every part of the world and has no end in sight. The judiciary needs to appropriately respond to this problem by evolving innovative principles and jurisprudence so that terrorism is kept at bay, while, at the same time upholding the rule of law.
  5. More importantly ‘globalisation’ demands rule of law. With the increase in cross-border dealings, movement of citizens, goods and investment, there is a requirement of stronger trust between nations. This trust can be built by creating institutions with strong emphasis on the rule of law which creates a secure environment.
  6. India has contributed to the evolution of jurisprudence in many areas and our judgments have been cited with acceptance overwhelmingly by other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Bangladesh and other countries in the Asian continent. A special mention needs to be made of Justice Michael Kirby, who had studied Indian jurisprudence and has cited our judgments in umpteen number of Australian High Court judgements.
  7. Indian legal system is based on the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and constitutional Courts with wide jurisdiction. We have a Constitution, which enumerates fundamental rights and duties. This Constitution has been expounded by the Supreme Court in terms of the Constitutional morality to make it relevant from time to time. The decisions rendered by the Courts in India certainly reflect the strong democratic culture prevalent in India.
  8. In our country, there is a free statutory legal aid program, which covers almost 75% of the Indian population. This year we are celebrating 25 years of successfully providing legal aid to the poor. Another important feature is that there are nearly 64,000 panel lawyers and around 69,000 para-legal volunteers who are regularly rendering legal aid and conducting legal awareness programs.
  9. Coming to the specific topics chosen for the various sessions, it can be seen that they have international ramification. I hope that some ideas for solutions evolve through a discussion based on the experience and expertise of the esteemed participants from different jurisdictions.
  10. The First topic is ‘The Role of the Judiciary in Maintaining a Gender Just World’. The gravity of this topic stems from  the  fact  that  women  constitute  half the world’s population, perform nearly two thirds of work hours, receive one tenth of the world’s income and own less than 0.01 percent of the world’s property.
  11. Most nations have recognized equality and dignity of women, whether under their Constitution or otherwise. We have all realized that merely having lofty declarations in law would not satisfy the requirement to uplift women who are discriminated day-in and day-out. There is sufficient scope for the judiciary to proactively ensure a gender just world. In this context we should realize that there cannot be any compromise in gender
  12. The second session concerns the topic ‘Role of the Judiciary Against Populism’. Rule of law is the strongest tool which protects This urges judicial readiness to intervene,but only when necessary to correct or prevent a problem that will likely not be resolved.
  13. This topic assumes fundamental importance because populist decisions affect the constitutional rights, and more often than not, rights of one group are pitted against the rights or interest of other group(s). Hence, Courts will have to rise to the occasion and guard constitutional values, at the same time balance all constitutional considerations.
  14. The third session pertains to ‘The Constitution and its interpretation’, which is a subjectwhich has never had any unanimity in its approach. Internationally, a facet of constitutionalinterpretation has been brought to the fore- front by judges like Lord Denning, Justices Marshall, Breyer, Gajendragadkar, Hidayatullah, Vivian Bose, Subba Rao, etc.
  15. India’s most prominent contribution to this debate, is the evolution of the doctrine of basic structure in the celebrated case of Keshavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala. This doctrine evolved from the fact that a Constitution is not merely a document laying down the grundnorm. Rather, it is a process which binds generation after generation to certain promises we made ourselves, while normatively imagining what our country would
  16. In this context, this subject requires deeper consideration based on the differing experience of the judicial minds from across continents as to how they have dealt with the question.
  17. The fourth session concerns the topic: ‘Role of Judiciary in Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development’. This topic reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi, who observed that ‘the future depends on what we do in the present’. This issue has been a point of discussion since the beginning of this century and continues to be a main focus within global politics.
  18. The threat of environmental degradation is not mere hypocrisy or hysteria, it is real and we are suffering the consequences of the same every day. Recently, we have witnessed earth shattering environmental crises such as forest fires, depletion of Ozone layer, Climate change, increasing sea level, etc. We must all realize these efforts are not only for the present generation, but also are a noble task to create a safe and sound environment for future generations.
  1. The fifth and final session of the conference, titled the “Role of Judiciary in Protecting Privacy of Citizens in the Internet Age” is a fitting finale to this international conference, as it directly confronts an issue that concerns the global citizenry, pertaining to the changing technological landscape.
  2. As individuals are provided services over the Internet by international entities, there is a need to create a jurisprudence that moulds together both international and national concerns. Therefore, this topic is extremely well suited to a broad based, cross jurisdictional discussion such as the present, and it would be illuminating to hear your considered inputs on this new age right.
  3. Before I end, I am reminded of Martin Luther King who observed that “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective”.
  1. With these few words I would like to conclude by encouraging all of you to actively take part in the sessions and be forthcoming in the discussions. I hope that these two days are enlightening, stimulating and would go a long way in breaking barriers, making life-long friends and creating long-lasting memories.

Thank you

Click here to download the PDF file of speech.

220220 Judiciary and the Changing World

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