Narendra Modi Saturday said “1.3 billion Indians” have disregarded apprehensions and “wholeheartedly” accepted recent critical judicial verdicts which were subjects of global discussion.
Speaking at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 – ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’ at the Supreme Court, Modi spoke about recent crucial judgements, in an apparent reference to path-breaking verdicts including in the politically-sensitive Ayodhya case.
The Prime Minister said no country or society in the world can claim to achieve holistic development without gender justice and referred to laws on transgenders, ‘triple talaq’ and on the rights of ‘Divyang’ (persons with disabilities).
He said the government has also taken steps to give rights to women in military service and in providing paid maternity leave for 26 weeks.
He also hailed the Indian judiciary for redefining environmental jurisprudence to strike a balance between development and ecological protection.
Modi, while emphasising on the use of technology and the internet, said it would help in procedural management of courts and would benefit the justice delivery system to a large extent.
He also referred to synchronisation of artificial intelligence with human wisdom and said it would bring “speed to delivery of justice”.
“In addition, in the changing times, issues like data protection, cyber crimes pose new challenges for the judiciary,” he said in his inaugural address.
“In recent times, there have been some critical judicial judgements and decisions which have been the subject of global discussion. Before these judgements were delivered, several apprehensions were being expressed about the consequences. But look what happened! 1.3 billion Indians wholeheartedly accepted the judicial verdicts,” Modi said.
He said it is going to be a decade of remarkable changes across the world which will impact all frontiers, be it society, economy, or technology, and these changes need to be rational as well as just and fair.
Talking about the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi, the Prime Minister said, “Gandhiji’s life was dedicated to the cause of truth and service, which are the foundational tenets for any system of justice and as you all know, he was himself a barrister and belonged to the fraternity of lawyers”.
Hailing a vibrant judiciary, legislature and executive, the PM said, “Respecting each other’s jurisdiction and dignity, these three pillars of the Constitution have resolved various challenges faced by the country on several occasions.
“We are proud of having developed such a rich tradition in India. In the last five years, various institutions of India have further strengthened this tradition”.
He also referred to the Centre’s endeavour in repealing 1,500 archaic laws and said, “Speed has been demonstrated not only in doing away with irrelevant laws but also in enacting new legislations aimed at strengthening the social fabric”.
The Indian Constitution guarantees gender justice under the provisions of the right to equality, Modi said, adding that India is “among few nations which has ensured the right to vote for women since independence”.
He also referred to his government’s flagship programme ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ to stress the steps taken by it to empower women.
“Similarly, the government has brought about many changes, whether it be the appointment of women in military service or in the selection process of fighter pilots or regarding their freedom to work in the mines at night,” he said.
He referred to India’s economic growth and said that five-six years ago, India was the 11th largest economy of the world.
“According to a report which appeared just 3-4 days ago, today India is the fifth largest economy of the world. Thus, India has shown that infrastructure development can happen simultaneously with the protection of environment,” he said.
On the use of technology, the Prime Minister said the government is working towards connecting every court to the e-courts system and establishment of national judicial data could result in simplification of court processes.
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said India is a “melting pot of cultures” and has assimilated the cultures of Mughals, Dutch, Portuguese and English.
“Constitution has created a strong and independent judiciary and we have strived to keep this basic feature intact,” the CJI said.
Referring to advancement of technology, the CJI said “the world has become smaller” and the “decisions no longer affect only those who live in our jurisdiction but also those who live far outside”.
Referring to the evolution of law prior to the common law system in the country, he said in north-east of this country, “there was a chicken liver test employed to determine guilt in absence of any evidence and the Panchayat used to decide whether accused was guilty”.
“There is practice of taking oath holding the tooth of a Tiger. There is fascinating diversity,” he said.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad referred to apex court’s judgements and said terrorists and corrupt people have “no right to privacy” and such persons should not be allowed to abuse the system.
Prasad said governance must be left to elected representatives and delivering judgements should be left to judges.
He said populism should not infringe upon the settled principles of law.