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CJI vows transparent delivery of justice; Minister gives away Will of Steel Awards

Top 5CJI vows transparent delivery of justice; Minister gives away Will of Steel Awards

Programme hosted by Sunday Guardian Foundation and Mahesh Jethmalani to mark Ram Jethmalani’s birth centenary.

New Delhi

Replacing an ad-hoc system with an institutionalised
court set-up is the best strategy for enhancing transparency and accountability, said Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud at the “Ram Jethmalani Memorial Lecture”, hosted here by the Sunday Guardian Foundation and noted lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani to mark the birth centenary year of the doyen of jurisprudence experts. Ram Jethmalani was the founder of The Sunday Guardian.

The event, which saw the best of legal minds delving
deep into issues of constitutional governance, also witnessed the distribution of the inaugural “Will of Steel Awards” by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal. The Ram Jethmalani Prize in Journalism in Service to Humanity was awarded to Aditya Raj Kaul, Executive Editor, TV9 Network. The award for legal journalism was given to Team Bar and Bench and the award for empowerment was given to Hina Rohtaki, special correspondent, Indian Express.

Earlier, CJI Chandrachud said in the 10 months of holding office he had realised that institutionalising courts improved transparency, accountability and humanised the workspace.

Indirectly responding to noted jurist Fali S. Nariman’s recent criticism of the selection process of judges, CJI Chandrachud said that he disagreed with the view that under the current system the collegium lacked factual data to evaluate people that it considered for appointment.

Highlighting steps taken to address concerns over the appointment of judges, he said, “It’s a work in progress…I have a Centre for Research Planning headed by an officer from Haryana Judicial Service with two young scholars. We have prepared a broader platform to assess every one of the top 50 judges in the country. We have data on judgments and… quality of judgments. The idea is to make the process of recommending appointments to the Supreme Court more transparent.”

“Our aim is to lay down objective parameters for selection of judges for Supreme Court and High Courts,” he said.
To underline the importance of transparency, Chief Justice Chandrachud recalled one of the famous arguments initiated by Ram Jethmalani during a discussion on alleged arbitrariness in presidential power to consider a death row convict’s pardon plea and quoted him as saying, “Secret guidelines are no guidelines”.

The CJI also shared some of the initiatives taken by the Supreme Court to improve access to justice delivery and promote paperless operations. “Paperless courtroom is being implemented. In my office, all communication takes place through e-office.” “We have implemented filing of cases in electronic form…easing the process of filing and arguing before the court. My focus is on quality of judgment my focus is on improving the gender ratio of lawyers,” the CJI said.

He also pointed out that the top court has increased its data collection abilities as a lack of data has proven to be a big hurdle in making policy decisions. The figures on pending cases and the disposal rates help us make decisions on where to increase our focus, he said.

Outlining his priority of ensuring that lawyers and litigants have facilities to comfortably rest while in courts, the CJI also shared plans to reconstruct a portion of the existing Supreme Court to construct 27 courtrooms. The modern facilities in the new building will have a large waiting area as well.

Referring to the eSCR free judgment search portal, the CJI said initiatives like this would make access to information and judgments easy. “Today, dissemination of information is no more prized,” he said, inviting suggestions from users of the eSCR portal for its improvement.

As part of Jethmalani’s centenary celebrations, legal luminaries, policymakers, and academics also participated in a lecture on “Has the basic structure doctrine served the nation well.”

The frank and open discussion on some of the critical issues saw top jurists and constitutional experts give suggestions on strengthening democracy. The speakers included senior advocate Fali S. Nariman; former CJI Dipak Misra; Editor, Tughlak, S. Gurumurthy; and senior advocate Shyam Divan.
Justice Misra highlighted that the basic structure doctrine is directed against anarchy. “It has acted as a navigational compass for judges in their constitutional interpretation,” he said, highlighting the important role played by the 50-year-old landmark judgment laid down in the Kesvananda Bharti case.
Attorney General of India, R. Venkatramani recalled his interaction with Ram Jethmalani and said he had once advised me to keep liberty burning in the heart. “Be as positive about liberty and justice,” he had said, recalled the AG.

During the event, speakers also paid glowing tributes Jethmalani on his birth centenary on Friday, with many of them affectionately recalling anecdotes related to him.
Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal recalled a meeting with Jethmalani Senior when he had gone to invite him to an event in Bikaner.

“One of the conditions, that he kept for me to accept my invitation was that I should play badminton with him. I was myself surprised to see him play so well,” said the minister, remembering him as a lively and brilliant person.
Meghwal said it was a matter of honour for him that he was occupying the office of law minister which was once graced by Ram Jethmalani, a pillar of jurisprudence, governance and democracy.

The speakers also mentioned many cases that Jethmalani appeared in during his legal profession including defending Indira Gandhi’s alleged assassins, defending Harshad Mehta in a stock market scam and the Narasimha Rao bribery case; defending Ketan Parekh in a stock market scam; appearing in a case involving Mumbai mafia gang leader Haji Mastan, defending L.K. Advani in the Hawala scam.

The Union Law Minister gave away the Jethmalani Prize in Journalism, under the Will of Steel Awards constituted on the occasion of the birth centenary year of Ram Jethmalani. The prime award was the Jethmalani Prize for Journalism in Service to Humanity, which carried a purse of Rs 1,400,000 ($17,000), making it the grandest current prize in journalism in India and the world. Two other awards under various categories carried a citation scroll and a purse of Rs 111,000 ($1,400).

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