Cautioning the three organs of state -- the executive, the judiciary and the legislature to respect each other's boundaries and be obligated to be models of good governance, President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said there is a relentless demand for transparency and scrutiny in public life today.
Speaking after inaugurating the National Law Day Conference organised here jointly by the Law Commission of India and NITI Aayog, President Kovind said, "Public life is today a glass house. There is a relentless demand for transparency and scrutiny. Our legal fraternity needs to be mindful of these legitimate urges of the people - the ultimate masters in a democracy. All three organs of the state - the judiciary, the executive and the legislature - are obligated to be models of good conduct. They also need to be careful not to cross into each other's finely-defined spaces..."
Her further said, "Our Constitution is both a major source of our laws, as well as the custodian of an ethic and a value system that inherently believes in the dharma of law. On National Law Day, we recall with gratitude the members of the Constituent Assembly who gave us this vibrant and inspiring document, our Constitution. And in particular we pay tribute to Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the chair of the Drafting Committee, and in a sense the Chief Architect of our Constitution."
President Kovind also used the occasion to flag the under-representation of women and under-privileged sections of Indian society in the legal field.
"(Out) of the 17,000 judges in our subordinate courts, high courts and Supreme Court, only about 4,700, roughly one in four, are women. In addition, there is an unacceptably low representation of traditionally weaker sections such as OBCs, SCs and STs, especially in the higher judiciary. Without in any manner compromising on quality, we need to take long-term measures to remedy this situation. Like our other public institutions, our judiciary too has to be judicious in being representative of the diversity of our country. And the breadth and depth of our society," he said.
He said that it is the sacred duty of the higher judiciary to groom district and sessions judges and raise their skills. In this manner, more and more of them can graduate to the high courts. This will also enhance trust in our lower courts and their judgements and serve to de-clog our high courts. On the issue of strengthening the justice delivery system, he emphasised that there is the need to ensure speedy justice with a greater efficiency.
"While we take pride in our courts and their independence, it is a paradox that the poor often shy away from a legal battle, worried about the duration and the cost. And the well-off sometimes use the judicial process and its intricacies to delay resolution to issues they simply do not want resolved. This paradox needs to be addressed," he said. President Kovind also said that in this age of instant communication and technology, "we must use these tools to speed up the justice delivery process."
On the question of affordability of legal fees, he said, "The idea that a relatively poor person cannot reach the doors of justice for a fair hearing only because of financial or similar constraints violates our constitutional values and our republican ethic. It is a burden on our collective conscience." He said that he would leave it to India's legal fraternity to find an answer to rectify this anomaly.
He noted that the government has identified around 1,800 laws that require to be removed from the statute books. In the past three years, Parliament has repealed about 1,200 obsolete and unnecessary laws. He stated that this will decongest the statute books and promote ease of governance.