President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday hailed the efforts of the Indian judiciary in pursuing the 'cherished goal of gender justice' and said that the Supreme Court has always been 'pro-active and progressive'.
Speaking at the International Judicial Conference 2020 'Judiciary and the Changing World', Kovind said the apex court has led 'progressive social transformation' and referred to the two decades old Vishaka guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of women at workplace and the recent direction that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission and command postings.
"In pursuing the cherished goal of gender justice, to mention one example, the Supreme Court of India has always been proactive and progressive," the President said.
"From issuing guidelines on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace two decades ago to providing directives for granting equal status to women in the Army this month, the Supreme Court of India has led progressive social transformation," he said.
The president expressed happiness that judgments of the Supreme Court are being now made available in nine vernacular languages to make them accessible to the common people and termed the effort as 'extraordinary' keeping in mind the linguistic diversity of the nation.
"The Supreme Court of India also deserves admiration for carrying out many radical reforms that made justice more accessible to the common people. Landmark judgments passed by this court have strengthened the legal and constitutional framework of our country," Kovind said.
"Its bench and bar are known for their legal scholarship and intellectual wisdom. What it has achieved is nothing less than a silent revolution in diagnosing and correcting the afflictions that adversely affected the justice delivery system," the president said.
Kovind referred to the role of judiciary in harmonising environmental protection and sustainable development, which get a lot of attention in various countries.
Dealing with the challenges faced by the judiciary in the wake of evolution of information technology, he said that new questions like data protection and right to privacy have emerged.
"With the evolution of information technology, there have emerged new questions, for example, of data and privacy," Kovind said.
"Finally, the all-important concern of sustainable development should command far more attention than it does today. You have held wide-ranging deliberations on these issues and suggested measures to overcome the challenges," the President said.
Kovind said the selection of topics for working sessions of the conference could not have been more meaningful as these five aspects -- gender justice, contemporary perspectives on protection of constitutional values, dynamic interpretations of the Constitution in a changing world, harmonisation of environment protection vis-a-vis sustainable development and protection of Right to Privacy in the internet age.
These aspects influence every member of the global community, he said.
Observing that these five distinctly defined topics cover the matrix of challenges faced by the judiciary across the world, he said gender justice must remain high on the global agenda.
"The past decade has witnessed a debate on rising populism in the context of constitutional values. This has, in turn, led many to take a fresh look at their founding documents, the Constitutions, again," he said.
However, he said that, in recent years, the world has been changing very fast and in unforeseeable ways, and the role of judiciary is bound to be 'pivotal amid these dramatic transformations'.
Referring to the recent move towards introducing an alternative dispute resolution mechanism which is expected to reduce burden on the court to a considerable extent, he said, "Dispute resolution through mediation and conciliation would help resolve the problem amicably in an effective manner instead of resorting to a lengthy litigation process."
"To speed up the justice delivery, of late the Indian courts have been adapting to new technologies and also considering the potential of artificial intelligence. We have been using information technology to ensure hassle-free proceedings in the court in high-profile cases," he said.
Kovind added that the Supreme Court is also actively considering the ways to make courts paperless.
He said that deliberations in the conference would help strengthen the judicial system not only in India but also in other countries as well.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde referred to the positive outcome of deliberations in the conference and said there has been a common thread which bind judges of various jurisdictions which is 'a commitment to dispensation of justice'.
He said the judgments of the Supreme Court of India have been cited by other courts of the world and as a result, India has served as a 'beacon of hope' to independent and developing nations.
The CJI also said that as per the desire of the president, the apex court has taken initiative to make available its judgments in nine vernacular languages to ensure that the poor and the deprived citizens are imparted justice.
He further said that job of the judiciary is not only to check who are in power but to empower deprived citizens.