New Delhi: The judiciary’s ability to remain relevant as an institution requires it to recognise challenges and begin “difficult conversations”, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said on Sunday as he flagged issues like “adjournment culture” and long vacations. He also stressed on increasing the representation of marginalised sections and providing a level playing field to first-generation lawyers.
The CJI was speaking at a function organised by the Supreme Court on the occasion of the inauguration of the Diamond Jubilee Year of the establishment of the apex court in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest for the occasion.
The CJI also highlighted the demographic changes undergoing in India and said that women, traditionally under-represented in the legal profession, now constitute 36.3 per cent of the working strength of the district judiciary.
CJI Chandrachud called for the inclusion of diverse sections of the population into the legal profession, noting the representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes “is quite low both at the Bar as well as on the Bench”.
Terming it as a “momentous occasion” in the history of the nation, CJI Chandrachud said that women can now be seen in important positions in India.
“There is a focus on greater inclusion of the marginalised sections of society. Equally inspiring is the confidence of the younger population to succeed in their professional lives,” he said.
The Supreme Court of India came into existence on January 28, 1950. It initially functioned from the Parliament House before it moved to the present building here.
CJI Chandrachud said, “Traditionally, the legal profession was a profession of elite men. Times have changed. Women, traditionally under-represented in the profession, now constitute 36.3 per cent of the working strength of the district judiciary.” The CJI also flagged the structural issues affecting the judiciary, such as pendency of cases, archaic procedures and the culture of adjournments, stressing that in the near future, these issues must be addressed.
“Our effort in our work as judges and administrators must be to ensure dignity to the district judiciary, which is the first point of contact for citizens.
“Our ability to remain relevant as an institution requires us to recognise challenges and begin difficult conversations,” he said.
The CJI said there is an urgent need to emerge from the adjournment culture to a culture of professionalism.
“Second, we have to ensure that the length of oral arguments does not interminably delay judicial outcomes.
“Third, the legal profession must provide a level playing field for first-generation lawyers – men, women and others from marginalised segments who have the will to work and the potential to succeed; and “Fourth, let us begin the conversation on long vacations and whether alternatives such as flexitime for lawyers and judges is possible,” he said.
He highlighted that in the recruitment examination for Junior Civil Judges conducted in several states like Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, more than 50 per cent of the selected candidates were women.
CJI Chandrachud also highlighted the recent senior designation of advocates by the Supreme Court to a record number of women.
“We, as judges and administrations, cannot be ignorant of these rising aspirations.
“Before the beginning of 2024, only 12 women were designated as ‘Senior Advocates’ in the history of the Supreme Court over the last 74 years. Last week, the Supreme Court designated 11 women from different parts of the country as Senior Advocates at one selection,” he said.
The programme held in the Supreme Court premises was also attended by Union Minister of State of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal, serving and retired judges of the top court and the high courts and lawyers and law students.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, Bar Council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra and Supreme Court Bar Association President Adish C Aggarwala also addressed the gathering.
In his address, CJI Chandrachud said, “Our legitimacy will endure from the inclusion of diverse sections of the population in our system. Therefore, we need to make more efforts to bring different sections of the society into the legal profession.
“For instance, the representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is quite low both at the Bar as well as on the Bench.” He added that it is the 75th year since the founding provided an opportunity to meet these challenges and step into the future with an honest assessment of our progress.
“We must reflect on the journey that we have traversed and renew our pledge to uphold the Constitution within and beyond the courtrooms,” the CJI said.
The programme was also attended by the Chief Justices of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Mauritius, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.