Chief Justice NV Ramana raised several concerns over judicial infrastructure today as he shared the stage with Law Minister Kiren Rijiju. He also urged the Law Minister to make sure the proposal to set up the National Judicial Infrastructure Authority is taken up in the winter session of parliament.
"The judicial infrastructure for courts in India has always been an afterthought. It is because of this mindset that courts in India still operate with dilapidated structures, making it difficult to perform effectively," the Chief Justice said at an event.
Only 5 per cent of court complexes have basic medical aid, and 26 per cent of the courts "don't have separate toilets for women and 16 per cent of the courts don't even have toilets for men," he pointed out. Nearly 50 per cent of the court complexes don't have a library, and 46 per cent of the court complexes don't have the facility to purify water.
On the key proposal linked to the judicial infrastructure, he said, "I have sent the proposal to the Union Law Minister. I am hoping for a positive response soon and that the Union Law Minister will expedite the process."
This is the second time that the Chief Justice has made a request regarding an issue linked to judiciary while sharing the stage with the Law Minister. Last time, it was over the issue of seeking speedy approval from the government for recommendations made by Supreme Court collegium for the appointments of judges in high courts.
The event in Aurangabad was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray too.
Earlier, Mr Rijiju had said, "There is no politics when it comes to judiciary. We are just different organs of the system but we are a team. Politics is the essence of democracy, but when it comes to judiciary, there is no politics."
Citing international research published in 2018, Chief Justice Ramana pointed out that the "failure to deliver timely justice can cost the country as much as 9 per cent of the annual GDP". "Without adequate infrastructure for courts, we cannot aspire to fill this gap," he stressed.
"The infrastructure of courts is important for improving access to justice and to meet the growing demands of the public. It's baffling to note that the improvement and maintenance of judicial infrastructure is still being carried out in an ad-hoc and unplanned manner. The financial autonomy of the Judiciary is integral," he said.
Courts are not "only for criminals but common people too," the Chief Justice insisted today.
"It's a common notion that only criminals or victims of crime approach the court. People take pride in stating that we have never seen a court building in our lifetime. But it is high time that we make efforts to remove the taboo associated with approaching courts for the affirmation of their rights. One must never feel hesitant to approach courts. After all, people's faith in the judiciary is the biggest strength of democracy.
Courts are not merely structures made of mortar and bricks... they actively assure the constitutional guarantee of Right to Justice."
While the Chief Justice highlighted the infrastructure issues during his speech, he also thanked the Law Minister in the end, "I am glad to again be sharing the dais with Kiren Rijiju. His enthusiasm and commitment to the cause of justice is reflected in the frequency of our meetings over the past few months through such events."