NEW DELHI: Just a month away from becoming the Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana has outlined his priority by saying the focus would be to secure access to justice for all, especially the downtrodden, poor, children and women.
Speaking at a function of the National Legal Services Authority and Delhi LSA on Monday, the most senior Supreme Court Judge lamented that even after 74 years of independence, the country is still debating access to justice to all, an issue which was pondered over passionately by the framers of the constitution.
On line to take oath as the 48th CJI on April 24, Justice Ramana said India has marched ahead steadily on several fields and today is a force to reckon with globally for its achievements. “On the other side of this success story, we are still a country with millions of people living without access to basic fundamental amenities of life, including access to justice,” he said.
As the executive chairman of NALSA, he said, “the idea of ’access to justice’ is deeply embedded in the Constitutional vision of justice … Legal aid is an important element in assuring that access to justice is available to all persons, irrespective of their social or economic position … The concept of ‘access to justice’ in India is much broader than confining it to providing lawyers for representation before the courts. It includes increasing legal awareness and also providing legal assistance to the poor and the marginalized for actualization of their rights and entitlements. ”
Describing the lawyers as the successors in profession to great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, Justice Ramana requested all lawyers to devote a part of their time for doing cases pro bono for the downtrodden, the poor and women and children in distress .
Showring accolades on NALSA and state legal services authorities, he said, “Since the enactment of the Legal Services Authorities Act in 1987, till December, 2020, over 23 lakh women have benefitted through our court based legal services. Apart from this, nearly 30 lakh people belonging to SC / ST categories have also benefited through our legal representation programmes in courts. Similarly, we have provided legal representation to 12.85 lakh individuals, when they were in custody before courts. ”
He said, “In the year 2020 itself, legal assistance was provided at the remand stage to 76,087 arrested persons. I am pleased to inform you all that 36,233 bail applications were filed at the remand stage, out of which 20,825 bail applications were allowed. ”
“In India, we cater for more than 70% of the population who are entitled for free legal aid. This makes the Indian Legal Aid system one of the largest legal Aid systems in the world in terms of the percentage of people entitled to free legal aid. Aid in both civil and as well as criminal matters. Legal aid is being provided with respect to cases in Consumer Forums, Labor Courts, Armed Forces Tribunals etc. apart from regular courts. In order to enable the same, around 48,227 panel lawyers are empanelled With the Legal Services Authorities to provide necessary legal services. Legal Services Authorities have also engaged pro-bono lawyers, which include many senior lawyers. Till now, 3175 pro-bono lawyers are empanelled at the District level, 437 at High Court level and 86 At Supreme Court level … Around 47,663 Para Legal Volunteers are on the rolls of the Legal Services Authorities, “he said.
“With respect to Alternative Dispute Redressal mechanisms, particularly Lok Adalats, Legal Services Authorities have developed the capacities to organize pan India National Lok Adalats. From November 2019 to February, 2021, approximately 49,04,089 cases were disposed of which includes 26,89,659 pending cases. This reduces the lifespan of cases and not only provides quick justice to the people but also declogs the dockets, “Justice Ramana said.