The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Shri N.V. Ramana ji, Justice Shri U.U. Lalit ji, Justice Shri D.Y. Chandrachud ji, my colleague in the Central Government and the Law Minister of the country, Shri Kiran ji, Hon'ble Judges of the Supreme Court, our fellow MoS Shri S.P Baghel ji, Hon'ble Judges of the High Courts, Chairmen and Secretaries of District Legal Services Authorities, all respected guests, ladies and gentlemen!
It is always a pleasant experience to be amongst all of you who are leading the judicial system of India, but it is a bit difficult to speak. This is the first such national meeting of the Chairmen and Secretaries of District Legal Services Authorities and I believe it is a good start, which means it will go on. The time you have chosen for such an event is also accurate and historically significant.
A few days from now, the country is completing 75 years of its independence. This is the time of the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of our independence. This is the time for those resolutions which will take the country to new heights in the next 25 years. Like Ease of Doing Business and Ease of Living, Ease of Justice is equally important in this ‘Amrit Yatra’ of the country. The National Legal Services Authority and all District Legal Services Authorities can play a big role in this. I especially congratulate Lalit ji and all of you for this event and convey my best wishes.
Regarding the concept of justice, it is said in our country:
अंगेन गात्रं नयनेन वक्त्रं, न्यायेन राज्यं लवणेन भोज्यम्॥
That is, just as different parts are important for the body, eyes for the face and salt for food, in the same way justice is equally important for the country. All of you are experts of the Constitution! The Article 39A of our Constitution, which comes under the Directive Principles of State Policy, has given great priority to legal aid. We can see its importance from the trust of the people in the country.
The common man in our country has this belief that if no one listens to him, the doors of the court are always open. This belief of justice makes every countryman realize that the systems of the country are protecting his rights. As a follow up, the country had also established the National Legal Services Authority so that even the weakest of the weak could get the right to justice. Our District Legal Services Authorities especially are like building blocks of our legal aid system.
You all know that access to the judicial system is very important for any society, but justice delivery is equally important. The judicial infrastructure also has an important contribution in this regard. Rapid progress has been made to strengthen the judicial infrastructure of the country in the last eight years. About 9,000 crore rupees are being spent to modernize the judicial infrastructure. The number of court halls in the country has also increased. This rapid progress in the construction of judicial infrastructure will also speed up justice delivery.
Today the world is witnessing an unprecedented digital revolution. And, India has emerged as a major center of this revolution. A few years ago, when the country introduced BHIM-UPI and digital payments, some people thought that its impact would be limited. But today, we can see digital payments happening in every village. Today, out of all the real time digital payments that are happening all over the world, 40 percent of it is happening in India alone. Digital payment has now become a normal routine for every person from street vendors to the poor of the villages. When the country has such a natural potential for innovation and adaptation, there can be no better time to use technology in justice delivery. I am happy that the judicial system of the country is moving fast in this direction under the directive of the Supreme Court. Under the e-Courts Mission, virtual courts are being launched in the country. Round-the-clock courts have started functioning for crimes like traffic violations. Video conferencing infrastructure is also being expanded in the courts for the convenience of the people. I have been told that till now, more than one crore cases have been heard through video conferencing in district courts in the country. About 60 lakh cases have been heard in High Courts and the Supreme Court as well. The alternative that we adopted during the time of Corona is now becoming a part of the system. This is a proof that our judicial system is committed to the ancient Indian values of justice and is also ready to match with the realities of the 21st century. The credit for this goes to all of you, gentlemen. I appreciate all your efforts in this regard.
The National Legal Services Authority and all District Legal Services Authorities will also have to make maximum use of this power of technology for justice delivery to common man. Technology can also play a big role in ensuring that a common citizen is aware of his rights, duties, constitutional structures, rules and remedies. Last year, the respected President had launched the Pan India Outreach Campaign for legal literacy and awareness. District Legal Services Authorities played a huge role in this regard. Prior to this, the Pro Bono Legal Services Program was also launched in 2017. Under it, legal services were expanded to the common people through mobile and web apps. If these authorities go a step ahead and use next gen technologies in these efforts, then the people will benefit more.
This period of 75 years of independence is the time of duty for us. We have to work on all such areas which have been neglected till now. The Supreme Court has shown sensitivity many times in the past on the humanitarian issue related to under-trial prisoners in the country. There are so many prisoners who are in jails for years waiting for legal aid. Our District Legal Services Authorities can take up the responsibility of providing legal aid to these prisoners. Today district judges have come here from all over the country. Being the chairmen of the district level under-trial review committees, I urge you to expedite the release of under-trial prisoners. I am told that NALSA has also started a campaign in this direction. I congratulate all of you for this initiative and hope that you will make this campaign successful through legal aid. I would also urge the Bar Council to motivate more and more lawyers to join this campaign.
I hope the efforts of all of us will give a new direction to the resolutions of the country in this ‘Amrit Kaal’. I also thank you all that I got an opportunity to be amongst you. I am sure that this two-day brainstorming session will bring equally big results as the event is filled with expectations and hopes.
With that expectation, thanks a lot!