Updated: September 12, 2021 1:10:22 am
Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Saturday termed the 1975 Allahabad High Court judgment which cancelled the election of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a “judgment of great courage”.
Speaking at a ceremony to lay the foundation of Uttar Pradesh National Law University and a new building complex of the Allahabad High Court at Prayagraj, the CJI recalled the long history of the court, and said: “In 1975, it was Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha from the Allahabad High Court who passed the judgment that shook the nation, when he disqualified Smt. Indira Gandhi… It was a judgment of great courage, which could be said to have directly resulted in the declaration of Emergency, the consequences of which I do not want to elaborate now.”
In the ruling, on June 12, 1975, the court had found Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices and declared her election from Rae Bareli null and void, apart from barring her from holding elected office for six years. The Emergency was declared on a fortnight later.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said the government wants to have “sweet relations” with the Chief Justice of India besides current and retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
“Where work has not happened in the past or got delayed, we want to take it forward with increased pace,” said Rijiu, without specifying. He wanted to assure all institutions associated with the judiciary “that we want to work in tandem” with them, he said, adding that the government not only respects the independence of the judiciary but will take all steps necessary to strengthen it.
In his speech, President Ram Nath Kovind hailed the appointment of three more women judges to the Supreme Court last month as creating “a new history”. The four women judges in the apex court now are the most ever, the President noted, adding that “these appointments have paved the way for a woman Chief Justice of India in the future”.
However, Kovind said, at just 12% across the apex court and High Courts, there were still too few women in the judiciary. “The establishment of a truly just society would be possible only when the participation of women increases in all areas including the judiciary,” he said.
President Kovind also recalled that it was the Allahabad High Court that had enrolled India’s first woman lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji, in 1921, terming it “a forward-looking decision”.
The CJI also raised the high pendency of criminal cases in the Allahabad High Court, calling it “very worrying”. “I do not want to point any fingers or lay any blame,” he said, but urged the Bar and Bench to work together to resolve the issue.
In this regard, he flagged the condition of courts in India, operating from “dilapidated structures, without proper facilities”. “It is an unpleasant work environment for the court staff and judges, making it difficult to effectively perform their functions,” he said.
Justice Ramana said this was why he was championing a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) “which will develop concepts of the National Court Development Project and its implementation”. “The NJIC shall be along the lines of different infrastructure development statutory bodies that work towards creating national assets across the country,” he said, adding that the design principle would be socially responsible and inclusive.
Rijiju said if one wants to reform the justice system, the focus should be on ensuring justice to the common man and said timely delivery of justice is the government’s priority. “We have to reduce the distance between the common man and justice as much as we can.”
He added that the government wants to turn India into a destination of international arbitration, and that there are plans to bring in a Bill on mediation in the forthcoming Winter Session of Parliament.
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