Vice President addresses the 11thConvocation of the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University

 

New Delhi: The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today said that inordinate delay, cost of legal processes and inaccessibility are impeding the effective delivery of justice to the common man. Referring to Gandhiji’s talisman, Shri Naidu said that the “the poorest man in want of justice” must be the prime motivator of legal practitioners in their thoughts and actions.

Underscoring the importance of restoring public confidence in the system, Shri Naidu called for the disposal of criminal cases related to public functionaries in a speedy, dispassionate, objective manner. For this purpose, special courts can be constituted to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving public servants and elected representatives, the Vice President suggested. He also proposed separate fast track courts for resolving electoral cases and to look into electoral malpractices.He also opined that defection cases in legislatures should be dealt with expeditiously in a time bound manner.

Shri Naidu expressed concern over recent happenings in the legislature of Himachal Pradesh and other states. He called for public representatives to have the highest ethical standards and exemplary conduct in every forum. Warning against frequent disruptions of House proceedings, he said the ‘only way forward for every problem is to discuss, debate and decide and not disrupt’.

Speaking at the 11th Convocation to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, the Vice President urged the graduates to strive hard to excel in their profession, while also making the judicial system accessible, affordable and understandable for every citizen. Calling for a change in the colonial mindset, the Vice President also wanted the educational institutions and courts to adopt indigenous dresses during convocations and court proceedings.

Speaking about the importance of law and justice in Indian ethos, Shri Naidu underlined the ‘resolve to secure Justice’ in the Preamble and quotedThiruvalluvar’s verse, which says a sound judicial system is one which is based on an objective enquiry, dispassionate analysis of evidence and delivery of even-handed justice to all citizens.

Calling judiciary a ‘key pillar of our polity’, Shri Naidu said it is our duty to ensure that we collectively improve the processes and achieve higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency. We need to re-invent, revamp and redefine the way we administer justice and enforce the rule of law, the Vice President said.

Noting the issue of accessibility, Shri Naidu said the cost of legal processes is one of the major impediments in securing justice to all. Noting the hidden costs for people in availing the legal route, Shri Naidu suggested innovations like Lok Adalats and mobile courts be leveraged wherever feasible to improve access. Along with this, streamlining free legal aid mechanisms and lawyers offering ‘pro-bono’ services for poor litigantscan help in reducing out-of-pocket expenditure for the underprivileged, he said. He added that the system needs to be brought closer to the people by conducting court proceedings and delivering judgments in the language of local people.

Shri Naidu observed that pendency in cases is also a serious concern. Underscoring the importance of timely justice, he suggested we find systemic solutions to solve the nearly 4 crore pending cases in the country, with most cases stuck in the lower courts, where around 87 percent of the total pending cases lie.

The Vice President outlined a few measures to tackle this problem. He suggested that frequent adjournments could be avoided and except in extraordinary situations, we can develop a Standard Operating Procedure that limits the number of adjournments to a reasonable number like one or two. He also suggested that alternative dispute redress mechanisms like Lok Adalats may have to be fully leveraged for speedy disposal of cases. He added that appointments to the courts must also be expedited and vacancies must be filled in a time-bound manner. This will bring great productivity gains especially in the lower courts, he observed.

Implementing these measures and bringing in a speedier judicial process will not only provide timely justice to the aggrieved persons but also improve the business environment in the country, Shri Naidu noted. Highlighting India as a prime investment destination, he advised that in order to cement our place in the world of business, along with a predictable policy regime, we must also ensure a sound, hassle-free judicial system which can dispose of appeals in a time bound-manner.

Emphasising the role of technology as a driving force for improving justice delivery, the Vice President encouraged the graduates to fully leverage technology to improve access, lower costs and reduce pendency. He advised the bar and bench to effectively utilize Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and to go for an accelerated digitization of court records under the National Judicial Data Grid. He also referred to the increased practice of online courts and e-filing during the pandemic and observed how they can reduce the associated costs with courts and improve ease of doing business.

Shri Naidu also raised the issue of Law of Torts and said it requires more attention in India. Noting how misleading and exaggerated advertisements are a matter of great concern, he suggested that we strengthen the laws relating to protecting the interests of consumers.

While underlining the importance of PILs and emphasizing they should not be diluted, he suggested that they should not be allowed to be filed routinely on trivial issues. “PIL should not be turned into private interest litigation”, he said.

Shri Naidu also highlighted and urged expeditious action in cases relating to atrocities against weaker sections, especially women and children. Noting that merely enacting laws would not completely address the issue, he said there is a need to bring about a change in the mindset of people.

The Vice President paid tributes to Dr. BR Ambedkar after whom the University is named and said his dreams for our Republic can be achieved only by ensuring the high ideals of our Constitution are implemented in true spirit so that they reach every person in the country.

The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri Banwarilal Purohit, Vice-Chancellor Prof. T.S.N. Sastry, faculty members and students were among those who attended the event.

Following is the full text of speech –

“Sisters and brothers,

It gives me immense pleasure to take part in the 11th Convocation of the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.

At the outset, let me congratulate all the graduating students who are receiving various degrees, awards and distinctions from this great institution. I compliment the Vice Chancellor and all the faculty members of the institution who have been shaping this University into a centre of excellence.

I am happy to note that a large number of alumni of this institution are holding important positions in public life as legislators and administrators, teachers and researchers, apart from being distinguished members of the Bar and Bench.

Sisters and brothers,

The concept of law is embedded in our ethos since time immemorial, evident in our age-old adage, ‘DharmoRakshatiRakshitah’ or law protects us if we preserve its sanctity. In other words, if we follow the laws, we shall live orderly and peaceful lives.

The Preamble of our Constitution is an eloquent expression of our resolve of ‘securing Justice’ to our people. In our diplomacy, we continue to stand steadfast to promote a peaceful, harmonious and rule-based world order.

Let me also recall the wisdom of illustrious saint, Thiruvalluvar who defined good governance in the following verse in his Thirukkural:

“Ondhukannodadu, IraiPurindhu, YaarmattumThendSaivaddemurai” which means a sound judicial system is one which is based on an objective enquiry, dispassionate analysis of evidence and delivery of even-handed justice to all citizens.

On this occasion, I recall that I was also a student of law once, planning to become an advocate. Due to the circumstances of the Emergency period, I had to fight for the people’s cause and eventually took up a legislative career instead of a legal career. But I continue to have a great attachment with the field and so, it is a great pleasure to be among the legal fraternity.

Dear young friends,

As you move out of the portals of this academic institution, please retain the ability to excel in your profession. Do not settle for mediocrity.

At a graduating ceremony, somewhat similar to this one, the Gurus of the Upanishadic age had advised the students – Satyam Vada, DharmamChara, Swaadhyaayaanmaapramada (speak the truth, live a righteous life and do not stop learning). I would like to add “do not be complacent. Try to constantly be among the best”.

Empathy and excellence, ethics and enthusiasm should guide your actions. As Gandhiji reminded us in his talisman, the poorest man in want of justice must be the prime mover of your thoughts and actions, not temporary exigencies or material temptations.

Sisters and brothers,

You have a unique opportunity to deepen our country’s democratic roots.

You can make the judicial system more accessible, affordable, understandable to every citizen.

The cost of legal processes is a major impediment in making justice accessible to all. A common perception is that there are many hidden costs in availing the legal route to resolve disputes. We have to find ways to reduce this out-of-pocket expenditure to the common citizen.

There is also a serious issue of protracted litigation. Timeliness in rendering justice is a major concern. As the maxim goes, justice delayed is justice denied. This delay is often attributed to huge pendency in courts, frequent adjournments and long leaves of courts. We have to address this problem of inordinate delay and do whatever is possible in our own purview to ensure speedier justice.

Young friends,

There is no silver bullet to all these problems. We must find systemic solutions to these challenges.

For better access, more courts, special benches and adequately staffed courts with all posts filled up are required. Innovations like Lok Adalats and mobile courts have to be leveraged upon wherever feasible.

The system needs to be demystified and brought closer to the people by conducting court proceedings and delivering judgments in the language of local people.

We must strive hard to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditure for the underprivileged. Legal aid mechanisms may need to be more streamlined.

Some of you may choose to do public service by accepting cases of poor litigants ‘pro bono’ and render free legal aid to needy litigants.

We have to also address the delay in our courts. I understand that there is lot of pendency of nearly 4 crore cases in our judicial system. Cases have accumulated over the years and most of these are petty cases in the lower courts, where around 87 percent of the total pending cases lie.

The judicial system must evolve methods for the speedy disposal of these cases. More avenues may have to be created for the quick resolution of disputes. Frequent adjournments could be avoided and except in extraordinary situations, we can develop a Standard Operating Procedure that limits the number of adjournments to a reasonable number like one or two. Simultaneously, alternative dispute redressal mechanisms like Lok Adalats may have to be fully leveraged.

Appointments to the courts should also be expedited and vacancies be filled in a time-bound manner. This will bring great productivity gains especially in the lower courts, where most of the pending cases lie.

Speedier judicial process will not only provide timely justice to the aggrieved persons but also improve the business environment in the country.

Dear sisters and brothers,

The world is looking at India as a prime investment destination. In order to cement our place in the world of business, along with a predictable policy regime, we must also ensure a sound, hassle-free judicial system which can dispose off appeals in a time bound-manner.

Dear sisters and brothers,

I feel that the issue of the Law of Torts has not received adequate attention in our country. It is an important branch of law in many developed countries as it protects consumers and ensures quality assurance. Misleading advertisements of products making exaggerated and tall claims are a matter of great concern. I feel that the time has come to strengthen the laws relating to protecting the interests of consumers.

I also feel that the importance of PILs should not be diluted and they should not be allowed to be filed routinely on trivial issues. PIL should not be turned into private interest litigation.

Emphasis must be laid on the disposal of criminal cases in a speedy, dispassionate, objective manner to restore public confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of the system. Special courts can be constituted to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving public servants and elected representatives in a time-bound manner. Separate fast-track courts can be set up to resolve electoral cases and to look into electoral malpractices.

Climate change has emerged as a major concern and needs to be addressed by all of us. We cannot afford to ignore it any longer. There is a need to bring more awareness about climate protection laws. We need to leverage the reach of social media platforms in this regard.

Sisters and brothers,

Technology can be a major driving force for improving justice delivery. As young graduates, you must lead this wave of new innovations in legal jurisprudence and fully leverage it to improve access, lower costs and reduce pendency.

To begin with, both the bar and bench should effectively utilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Digitization of all court records under the National Judicial Data Grid must be expedited.

The practice of online courts and e-filing was accelerated greatly during the COVID pandemic and they can continue to serve us greatly in not only improving the ease of access to justice but also in reducing the associated costs and improving the ease of doing business.

Finally, we must understand that lawyers and courts alone cannot deliver justice to our people. They have to be ably supported by the other arms of the justice system. Police reforms and jail modernization should go hand in hand with reforms in the judicial system.

Legal institutions and education must also be tailored to meet the modern demands- for instance, expertise in cyber-crime, intellectual property violations, international law. Young and old practitioners alike must also try to specialize in these fields to enhance their professional competence.

I am happy to note that this university has introduced a five-year Integrated programme of Bachelor of Computer Applications and Law in order to train the future lawyers to be competent, front-ranking legal professionals in the emerging world where technology will continue to be an important tool to improve governance.

Sisters and brothers,

Before I conclude, I wish to highlight a few things that warrant our attention.

High ethical standards and exemplary conduct must be the norm, be it in judiciary, legislatures or executive. People in public life and high positions must set an example to others by maintaining high standards.

I was distressed by the recent happenings in Himachal Pradesh legislature and a few other states. I urge upon all public representatives to conduct themselves in a decent and dignified manner in every forum. Otherwise, the people might get disillusioned with our polity soon.

Frequent disruption and stalling of legislative proceedings would not serve any purpose and everyone must realize that the only way forward for every problem is to discuss, debate and decide and not disrupt.

Another pertinent matter is the cases relating to atrocities against weaker sections, especially women and children. Such cases should be accorded priority and dealt with expeditiously. There is also a need to bring about a change in the mindset of people as merely enacting laws would not completely address the issue. I have always emphasized that what is required is not mere law, but political will and administrative skill to go for the kill of the social evil.

Once again, I am very happy to be with you at this 11th Convocation of your University.

This University is named after a great son of this soil, one of the most eminent jurists India has ever seen, and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr. BR Ambedkar. To truly fulfill Babasaheb’s dreams for our Republic, we need to ensure that the high ideals of our Constitution are implemented in true spirit so that they reach every person in the country.

India is at a crucial transformative phase in its developmental journey. As we approach the 75th anniversary of our country’s independence we need to reflect on our past experience and strengthen each organ of the state. Judiciary is a key pillar of our polity and it is our duty to ensure that we collectively improve the processes and achieve higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency.

We need to bring it much closer to the people who need its services. We need to refine our systems to make them citizen-friendly. We need to, if need be, re-invent, revamp and redefine the way we administer justice and enforce the rule of law to meet the needs of an aspirational, resurgent India.

I am sure that as students of law, you will always strive for positive social change. I am confident you will be the torchbearers of our quest for a just, inclusive and prosperous India.

I wish the University keeps up its record of excellence and achieve many more laurels in the years to come. My best wishes to all of you.

Jai Hind.”

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