Supreme Court: As the Supreme Court of India celebrates its Foundation Day on 04-02-2023, for the first time in history, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud C.J., addresses the gathering in the presence of eminent personalities like Chief Justice of Supreme Court Singapore, Sundaresh Menon, Sanjay Kishan. Kaul, K.M. Joseph and Ajay Rastogi JJ.
The event commemorated the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of Supreme Court which came into existence on 28-01-1950, just two days after India adopted its Constitution and became an independent, sovereign republic.
Addressing the occasion, Chief Justice spoke about the role of the Supreme Court, unlike the Federal Court, whose jurisdiction was limited to adjudicating disputes between provinces and federal states, and hearing appeals against the decisions of the High Court, the jurisdiction of its successor extended to hearing criminal and civil appeals, the enforcement of fundamental rights, adjudicating disputes involving the states of Indian federation, as well as advising the president on important questions of law.
He explained, “The Constitution has envisaged a unified and integrated judiciary with the Supreme Court at its apex, which has, over the past few yearyears, furthered the transformative vision of the Constitution by recognizing and protecting fundamental rights such as the right to privacy, decisional autonomy, and sexual and reproductive choices.”
Justice Chandrachud also spoke at length about how the judicial innovation in the form of Public Interest Litigation, which was brought into being by relaxing the rules of Locus Standi, increased access to justice.
“By doing so, the court opened its door to persons bereft of the means to approach the court because of their social and economic disadvantage. This has provided a space for citizens to converse with the state on equal terms. In turn, the court has been using its jurisdiction to make the rule of law a daily reality for persons belonging to the marginalised communities.” emphasised the Chief Justice.
He prides himself in saying that Supreme Court, which serves the World’s most populous democracy, is, in the truest sense, a ‘people’s court’ because it is a collective heritage of the people of India.
The Chief Justice referred to the address of the first Chief Justice of India, Justice H.J. Kania, at the inaugural session of Supreme Court on 28-01-1950, where the judge prophesized that the Supreme Court would play a great part in the nation-building exercise, “These words were prescient, and have animated successive generations of judges.”
He pointed at the design of the Supreme Court building which was in the shape of a balance with a pair of scales of justice. He said, “When you enter the court premises, you will find the pensive statue of Mahatma Gandhi facing the court building. The logo consists of the wheel of dharma with the inscription ‘Yato Dharmastato Jaya’, meaning where there is dharma, there is victory. These are not merely ornamental imageries, but they represent the values of the Constitution and the aspirations of our people”, explained the Chief Justice. He was of the view that they serve as a reminder for both judges as well as lawyers to act righteously.
The Chief Justice went on to speak about the workload on the Judiciary and registry on a day-to-day basis and stated that “The court’s workload during the initial years was a fraction of what we witness today. Over the years, the workload has increased. Every day now, theSupreme Court sees hundreds of cases on its docket. But the judges and the staff of the registry put up tremendous work to ensure the speedy disposal of cases.” While referring to the data in his hand, he stated that in the last 3 months, 12,108 cases were filed before the Supreme Court, and 12,471 cases were disposed of.
He asserted on the importance of all cases that came before the Supreme Court, irrespective of how big or small the cases were, as is in the seemingly small and routine matters involving the grievances of citizens, issues of constitutionaland jurisprudential importance emerge. “In attending such grievances, the Court performs a plain constitutional duty, a plain constitutional obligation, and a plain constitutional function.” observed the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice expressed his admiration on the fact that the Courts of our country have emerged as strong proponent of gender equality, whether it’s the interpretation of the law of inheritance or securing entry of women in the armed forces. “The Courts have humanized the law which is in touch with the people’s sentiments.”
He was of the view that Supreme Court had ensured that the criminal justice administration was not de-linked from the framework of human rights. Referring to the example of death penalty which had been upheld to be legal and constitutional, Supreme Court laid down various mitigating and aggravating circumstances that a judge should take into account before awarding the sentence of death which ensured fairness in process, procedural innovation, open court hearings or psychiatrist assessment of death row convicts.
In order to demonstrate the Supreme Court’s continuing commitment to delivering justice, the Chief Justice proudly stated that between 23-03-2020 and 31-10-2022, during the epitome of Covid-19, the Court adopted innovative, technological solutions.
“We updated our video conferencing infrastructure in courtrooms at a meta scale. In this period, the Supreme Court alone heard 3.37 lakh cases through video conferencing,” the Chief Justice informed the gathering. “We are continuing to use such technological infrastructure to allow a hybrid mode of court hearings that allows parties to join court proceedings from any part of the world online,” he added.
Referring to the recent 2023 budget, he stated that Government of India had announced a provision of 7000 crores for Phase III of E-Courts project which would enhance the accessibility of the judicial institutions and improve the efficiency of the justice delivery system in India.
He asked the Judges of the Country to follow three principles while adjudicating:
Apply the precautionary measure.
Principles of sustainable development
Remember the public trust doctrine.
“If we apply these three principles, we will ensure that our Court remains vibrant, despite the climate change” emphasised the Chief Justice.
*Simran Singh, Editorial Assistant summated the data.