Chief Justice of India Justice D Y Chandrachud on Saturday stressed the need to learn to trust the district judiciary, saying it would truly answer the needs of common citizens who seek access to justice.
Justice Chandrachud, the 50th CJI, said the district judiciary is as important in the affairs of the nation's judicial system as is the Supreme Court and high courts.
Speaking at a function organised by the Bar Council of India (BCI) to felicitate him on being appointed as the CJI, Justice Chandrachud talked about the use of technology in judiciary, district judiciary, judicial infrastructure, legal education and women in the judicial system.
The CJI said an independent bar is inextricably linked with the independence of judiciary and the reason for that is as judges 'we have no personal defence or a platform to defend ourselves'.
Justice Chandrachud said district judiciary is the first point of interface between the judiciary and common citizen.
"So the process of dispensing justice is so intrinsically human that we have to learn to trust our district judiciary because it is when we learn to trust our district judiciary that we will truly answer the needs of our common citizens who seek access to justice," he said, adding, "The way we look at district judiciary affects deeply our own personal liberty as citizens."
The CJI said the higher judiciary is getting 'flooded' with bail matters because of the reluctance at the grassroots level to grant bail.
"And why judges at the grassroots are reluctant to grant bail, not because they don't have the ability, not because the judges at the grassroots don't understand the crime," he said, adding there is a 'sense of fear' among the judges at the grossroots that if he grants bail 'will somebody target me tomorrow on the ground that I granted bail in this heinous case'.
"This sense of fear nobody talks about but which we must confront because unless we do that we are going to render our district courts toothless and our higher courts dysfunctional," he said.
Why should one distrust any person who grants relief to a citizen, he asked.
He said much has to be done for improving the service conditions of the district judiciary.
"But above all, we have to bring to our district judiciary a sense of dignity, a sense of self-worth, a sense of confidence in their own respectability, which is why I always say our district judiciary is not a subordinate judiciary," he said.
He said the apex court may lay down 'big ticket judgements' on important issues, but the district judiciary defines the peace, the happiness, tranquillity and faith of the common citizens.
On the use of technology, he said the idea is to make the system more transparent, more efficient for young members of the bar.
The CJI said today on the National Judicial Data Grid, around 77 lakh high court judgements have been uploaded and this will benefit the young lawyers who will have access to it.
He said we must not expect lawyers or citizens to reach out to courts and instead, the courts must reach out to them.
"We propose to set up and we are in the process of setting up e-sewa Kendras across India in every court establishment where all these services will be available," he said.
Justice Chandrachud said when he was the chief justice of the Allahabad high court, he used to always call upon lawyers to come and talk about the problems they faced.
"Why this feeling that we strike against each other. Because when lawyers strike who suffers? The consumer of justice for whom we exists suffers, not the judges and not the lawyers," he said.
The CJI said it is important for the members of the Bar to also realize that 'so very often when we take decision at the administrative capacity in the Supreme Court, we are looking at things in a national perspective'.
He said one must also learn to trust those in authority to a certain extent at least that they have the best welfare of the institution at heart.
"I am sometimes worried about the weight of the expectation because after all I am only a human being and all your earnest desires and efforts are subject to so much which the environment in which we live also affects and produces in terms of consequences," he said.
Referring to the difficulties faced by young lawyers, the CJI said they are not paid decently.
"That must change and the burden of doing that is on us, as senior members of the profession," he said.
"For too long we regard the youngsters in our profession as slave workers. Why? Because that is how we grew up. We cannot now tell the young lawyers that this is how we grew up," the CJI said.
Justice Chandrachud assured that everything which he will do would be in the interest of preserving the institution of justice.
Besides the CJI, several others including Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, apex court judge Justice M M Sundresh, Attorney General R Venkataramani and BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra also addressed the gathering.