Citizens should not be afraid of approaching courts: CJI Chandrachud

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has acted as a “people’s court” and citizens should not be afraid of going to courts or view it as the last resort, Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud said on Sunday.

Justice Chandrachud said just as the Constitution allows us to resolve political differences through established democratic institutions and processes, the courts system helps in resolving many disagreements through established principles and processes.

“In this way, every case in every court in the country is an extension of constitutional governance,” the CJI said while speaking at the inauguration of the Constitution Day celebrations at the apex court.

President Droupadi Murmu delivered the inaugural address at the program, which was also attended by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal and others. In his address, the CJI said, “In the last seven decades, the Supreme Court of India has acted as a people’s court.

Thousands of citizens have approached its doors with the faith that they will get justice through this institution.” He said citizens come to court to seek the protection of their personal liberty, accountability against unlawful arrests, protection of rights of bonded labourers, tribals seeking protection of their homelands, prevention of social evils such as manual scavenging and even hoping for interference to get clean air.

“These cases are not just citations or statistics for the court. These cases resemble the expectations of people from the Supreme Court as well as the court’s own commitment to deliver justice to the citizens,” the CJI said.

Apart from ensuring that citizens get justice through its judgments, the apex court has been making continuous endeavours to ensure that its administrative processes are citizen-centric so that people feel the connection with the working of courts, he said.

While highlighting the steps taken for dealing with the issue of overcrowding in prisons which was flagged by the President on Constitution Day last year, the CJI said the goal behind these initiatives was to ensure that people feel that the constitutional institution of judiciary was working for them.

“Individuals should not be afraid of going to courts or view it as the last resort. Rather it is my hope that by our efforts, citizens of every class, caste and creed can repose trust in our court system and view it as a fair and effective forum to enforce the rights,” he said.

“Sometimes, we as a society may frown on litigation as a disreputable entanglement. But just as the Constitution allows us to resolve our political differences through established democratic institutions and processes, our court system helps resolve our many disagreements through established principles and processes,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said courts were now live-streaming proceedings and this decision was taken with a view that citizens should know what was happening inside courtrooms. “Constant media reporting about proceedings of courts indicates the engagement of the public with the working of the courtrooms,” he said, adding the top court also took a decision to translate its verdicts to regional languages with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning. “As of November 25, 2023, the Supreme Court has delivered 36,068 judgements in English from the date of its first sitting. But proceedings in our district courts are not conducted in English,” he said.

The CJI said all of these judgments were available for free on the e-SCR platform, which was launched in January this year. “Today, we are launching the e-SCR in Hindi as 21,388 judgments have been translated into Hindi, vetted and uploaded on the e-SCR portal,” he said. Besides, 9,276 verdicts as of Saturday evening have been translated into other Indian languages, including Punjabi, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali and Urdu, he said. Talking about technology and its use by the judiciary, he spoke about the launch of ‘e-sewa kendras’ in courts to ensure that no citizen was left behind in the judicial process.

“Technology is not meant to distance us from our citizens but to take us into the lives of our citizens. We embrace our citizens as co-equal partners in a shared national endeavour,” he said. The CJI said that on Constitution day last year, the President had raised concerns over the overcrowding of prisons and incarceration of citizens from marginalised backgrounds.

” I want to assure you (President) that we are constantly working to ensure that legal processes become easier and simplified so that citizens don’t languish in jails unnecessarily,” he said. Justice Chandrachud said version 2.0 of the Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records (FASTER) application would be launched Sunday and it ensures that judicial order of release of a person was immediately transferred to jail authorities, district courts and high courts via electronic means so that the person was released on time.

The CJI said the country already celebrates Independence Day and Republic Day, then why a separate Constitution Day?

“The answer lies in the success of our democracy as compared to countries that gained independence from colonialism at the same time as India,” he said.

He said India not only maintained its Constitution but also the people imbibed and internalise it as a symbol of their aspirations. “Celebration of Constitution Day symbolises the social life of an independent nation,” the CJI said.