Underlining the issue of undertrials languishing in jail, President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday called on the government and the judiciary to find ways to solve the crisis.
“I hear these days that we will have to make new prisons because prisons are overcrowded. If we are moving towards progress as a society, why do we need new jails? We should be closing down existing ones,” the President said.
Speaking at the valedictory session of the Law Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court, Murmu said, “I am leaving this issue to the judges here, and the Law Minister. I am not saying anything more. I hope you understand what I have said and what I refrained from saying.”
Stressing that she is proud that 389 members of the Constituent Assembly included 15 women, Murmu also said, “When some of the leading nations in the West were still debating women’s rights, women in India were participating in the framing of the Constitution.”
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said the government is committed to social diversity in judicial appointments. “In matters of appointment of judges, the Government of India is committed to social diversity and has been requesting Chief Justices of high courts to provide for the same while sending proposals for appointment of judges,” he said.
On representation in the judiciary, Rijiju said much more needs to be done by the judiciary.
“Over the last seven decades of India’s journey as an independent nation, representation of women as judges has increased. However, much distance needs to be travelled to address the needs of providing diversity in higher judiciary, and to meet the expectation of the cross-section of the people,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud emphasised that the Constitution is uniquely Indian even in its functioning, despite the fact that some of its provisions were inspired from other Constitutions of the world. “There is no better time to recall that India is one of the few nations where the Constitution was written by her people,” he said. “Unlike in many countries that achieved independence from the British, we forged our own Constitution.”
“The only remnant of colonial past in the court is when the lawyer opens the brief with ‘My Lord’. Thereafter what follows is a truly Indian style of advocacy, largely Hindi, interspersed with a few English words and a few Latin phrases,” he said.
Emphasising the constitutional ideal of unity in diversity, CJI Chandrachud said that the Constitution accounts for the rich human tapestry in India. “The Constitution does not force its citizens to choose between their rights and their culture,” he said. “Rather, it includes the cultural, social and religious aspects in its journey to the goal of a democratic society.”
The CJI said this ideal is what legal scholar Granville Austin would have referred to as the “principle of accommodation.” He said, “The principle of accommodation is different from compromise, which involves concessions.”
CJI Chandrachud also said that the Supreme Court will soon conduct an audit of its premises to review and ensure its accessibility with persons with disabilities.