19 August, 2006
Emphasizing the need to protect the rights of the weak and the dispossessed and to make rule of law a living reality for millions of our people, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh called for a more efficient and effective judicial machinery.
Inaugurating the National Meet on Social Justice and Legal Empowerment organized by the National Legal Services Authority here today, the Prime Minister observed that it is the responsibility of each of the pillars of our democracy – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary itself. “I assure you that our Government will extend full support to the judiciary to realize these shared objectives of good governance”, he added.
Stating that an effective, efficient and humane judiciary is an essential foundation of good governance, Dr. Singh said, “The greatest challenge in this regard is in fact at the bottom of the pyramid where most of our citizens come in contact with the judiciary. The lower courts, the district courts, the courts that deal with petty offences, these are the ones that must be sensitized most to the concerns we are dealing with today. They are at the cutting edge of our governance.”
Expressing concern over the delays in disposal of cases and the consequent backlog, cost of litigation, probity – or the lack of it – in some sections of the judiciary, Dr. Singh stressed that it is incumbent upon any healthy institution to continue to reflect from time to time on its role, on the expectations from it and on the scope for improvement.
The Chief Justice of India, Union Minister for Law and Justice, senior Judges of the Supreme Court, several Chief Ministers and legal luminaries participated in the function.
Following is the full text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion.
“I am delighted to inaugurate this very important meeting on social justice and legal empowerment. I compliment the National Legal Services Authority for bringing together important representatives of the judiciary, the legislature, the Executive branch of Government and civil society representatives to discuss issues of vital concern to our people and to the future of our country.
I convey my very sincere appreciation of the wise and supportive leadership provided to the National Legal Services Authority by the Hon’ble Chief Justice, Justice Sabharwal and Justice Balakrishnan, Chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. Under his chairmanship this Authority has undertaken laudable efforts to empower our citizens. Our Government will extend full cooperation to the judiciary in this noble endeavour. I hope we can all work together to realize the underlying social vision of the authors of our Constitution and the wisdom and knowledge of the founding fathers of our Republic.
Our Government believes that democracy has no meaning for the citizens unless the citizen is able to secure his basic human rights, namely education, employment and the right to live a life of dignity and self-respect. It is in this context that the social and economic revolution that is now under implementation in a country like India has great significance for the future of entire humankind. Nowhere else you find a country of a billion people seeking its social and economic emancipation in the framework of an open society and an open economy and a polity committed to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human values. Our success will have profound implications for the evolution of humankind and the progress it makes in this twenty-first century. It gs without saying that along with economic and social empowerment of the people, legal empowerment is an important means to each of these ends. And that’s why, the great importance of the work that you are engaged.
Our government has taken several initiatives to revitalize our judicial system and legally empower our people. The National Common Minimum Programme places great emphasis on legal empowerment of all sections of our society, particularly the weaker sections. It is our sincere commitment to make our judicial section sensitive to the rights and needs of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities and above all our women.
I am proud of the fact that the National Legal Literacy Mission is working hard to enable our people to derive the full benefits of the legal rights they enjoy as citizens of our proud Republic. Often the ignorance of law comes in the way of people asserting their rights and discharging their obligations. If people do not know the law, how can they be expected to abide by it? This becomes a major hindrance to the successful implementation of any legislation and contributes to the violation of laws. A large number of cases of violations are due to low legal literacy. Hence the Legal Literacy Mission seeks to promote legal awareness, redressing social and economic imbalances.
I am, therefore, very happy that the National Legal Services Authority has taken the initiative to implement Project Nyaya Sankalp. This project aims to sensitise our judiciary to the cause of social justice and seek social protection for victims and survivors of trafficking and HIV/AIDS. I compliment you on making this one of the areas of focus of your meeting today.
Sensitising each of the institutions of our democracy to the needs and concerns of the under-privileged is one of our top policy priorities. As I said earlier this week, in my Independence Day address to the nation, the rule of law can become a living reality for millions and millions of our people, only if the rights of law-abiding citizens are effectively protected and safeguarded. Only if justice is seen to be delivered and delivered in time only if the rights of the weak and the dispossessed are protected.
For this we need a more efficient and more effective judicial machinery . A humane and a well-equipped judiciary. This is the responsibility of each of the pillars of our democracy – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary itself. I assure you that our Government will extend full support to the judiciary to realize these shared objectives of good governance.
I say this because there are concerns often voiced in various quarters about the delays in disposal of cases and the consequent backlog that has built up over the years. There is concern about the cost of litigation and the cost of obtaining justice. There is growing concern also about probity – or the lack of it – in some sections of the judiciary. I have said this before, and I say this again, that we take great pride in the quality and effectiveness of our judicial system. But in the larger scheme of governance, it is incumbent upon any healthy institution to continue to reflect from time to time on its role, on the expectations from it and on the scope for improvement. This will help us take steps to improve our performance and to meet the fast changing needs of the times that we live in. Above all, it will make our justice delivery system more sensitive to the needs of the poorest of our people. Especially those who are most discriminated against in our society.
A judicial system is a dispute resolution system and it must be recognized as a “service” which provides consumers expeditious and effective resolution of these disputes. It offers a mechanism for the enforcement of rights and obligations of individuals, a function which is essential in a functioning polity or for that matter a functioning economy. Therefore, an effective, efficient and humane judicial process is an essential foundation of good governance particularly in a country like ours, committed to the rule of law.
The greatest challenge in this regard is in fact at the bottom of the pyramid where most of our citizens come in contact with the judiciary. The lower courts, the district courts, the courts that deal with petty offences, these are the ones that must be sensitized most to the concerns we are dealing with today. They are at the cutting edge of our governance.
I sincerely hope this interaction between the political executive, state and district level officials and members of the judiciary will help us work together in the service of our people. I wish your deliberations all success.”