The tussle between the judiciary and the government over the appointment of judges was once again apparent on Friday when Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud breached the topic during the inauguration of the new premises of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) bench in Mumbai.
CJI said that there is a constant tussle about who will control the appointment of judges even as the vacancies arise, and the recommendations are kept pending for a long period of time.
Importance of tribunals
Emphasizing the importance of tribunals in the country, CJI said one of its objectives is to battle the delays and help unclog the courts and aid overall in the dispensation of justice.
The tribunals, however, are plagued with problems, and we ask ourselves whether it is really necessary to constitute so many tribunals, the CJI said. "Because you do not get judges, when you get judges, vacancies arise which are kept pending for a long period of time...and then there is this constant tussle about who will get ultimate control over the appointment of judges," CJI added.
Appreciating the work culture in Maharashtra, CJI said: “There is a culture of governance where the government successfully has left the judiciary alone. They do not tinker with the work the judges do. They accept outcomes that are favorable...they accept outcomes that are unfavorable because that is the culture of Maharashtra.”
The struggle to acquire space in the city
Highlighting the struggle to acquire space in the city, CJI said that every Mumbaikar would testify to the troubles of securing a space. “Very often we forget the importance of the work that the government does in aiding and supporting the judicial infrastructure,” he said, adding that the government played a proactive role in allotting a place for a new high court complex.
The CJI, who has been vocal for inclusivity, said that to make justice accessible to all, it is necessary to make courtrooms more accessible to differently-abled persons. He added that technology cannot become the sole medium to access justice, and physical access to courts can never be understated and hence must be constantly improved.
Stressing the importance of tribunals, CJI said that it has also helped litigants. “A rightful but weary pensioner or a wrongly terminated single mother may not withstand a long and winded litigation as well as outlast her much more powerful opponent, usually the State, in a long-winded legal tussle,” the CJI said. The tribunals make this journey less onerous for the litigants in matters of public employment.
Infrastructural gaps in the judiciary
A report prepared by the Centre for Research and Planning highlights the infrastructural gaps in the judiciary. “The report found that for a sanctioned strength of 25,081 judges in the district judiciary, there is a shortage of 4051 courtrooms. Notably, 42.9 percent of the total courtrooms have been under construction in the last three years,” CJI said.
He said that there are many barriers that stand in the way of access to justice for many, and the inability to get a timely outcome may impact each person differently. At a certain level, we feel that delay impacts everybody equally, but that is not so, the CJI said, adding it has a disparate impact on everyone.
Giving examples of lactating mothers and a person in a wheelchair, CJI said: “It is no answer to a wheel-chair bound person, a senior citizen, or a lactating mother for our courts to tell them that our courts are better experienced online. The litigant alone must have the choice of how they want to access the courts.”
Democracy in India
While speaking at the Jamnalal Bajaj Awards, CJI said that India has been able to sustain democracy, unlike several other nations that acquired freedom around the same time as India did.
“75 years ago several nations across the world joined India in freeing from colonial rule but so many of these nations have fallen by the wayside. They attained independence but they were unable to attain true self-governance,” said CJI. India is unique because we have been able to sustain democracy. “What is it that sets us apart from several of those nations that attained freedom around the same time? Some say we have internalized democracy, constitutional values. Others will say the strength of our nation lies in its pluralistic culture, all-encompassing humanity,” CJI added.
He underscored that the power of violence, the power of guns has got better of the rule of law in other nations. However, India has survived because of our “ability to dialogue.”