Chief Justice Of India DY Chandrachud As Supreme Court Turns 75

'Independent Judiciary Means...': Chief Justice As Supreme Court Turns 75

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud speaks at an event to mark 75 years of the Supreme Court

New Delhi:

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud today addressed a unique ceremonial bench as the country’s highest court turned 75 years. Similar to the arrangement in 1950 – when the Supreme Court held its first sitting – the Chief Justices of all the high courts also attended the ceremony that was streamed live online.

Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasised three principles that are necessary for the Supreme Court to function according to the constitutional mandate. The first is an independent judiciary, where the Supreme Court must be independent of the legislature and executive.

The second is the judicial approach towards adjudication, which says the Supreme Court must interpret the Constitution not as a rigid body of rules, but as a living organism.

The third principle is that the Supreme Court must secure the respect of citizens for it to establish itself as a legitimate institution.

“The confidence of citizens is determinative of our own legitimacy… This court has in the last 75 years faced old and new challenges in confronting the face of injustice and meeting the expectations of those at the receiving end of power,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

“The Constitution entrenches several institutional safeguards for an independent judiciary… However, these constitutional safeguards are not in themselves sufficient to ensure an independent judiciary. An independent judiciary does not merely mean the insulation of the institution from the executive and the legislature branches, but also the independence of individual judges in the performance of their roles as judges,” the Chief Justice of India said.

“The art of judging must be free of social and political pressure, and from the inherent biases which human beings hold. Efforts are being made from within the institution to educate and sensitise judges across courts to unlearn their subconscious attitudes inculcated by social conditioning on gender, disability, race, caste, and sexuality,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

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Today’s ceremonial bench was organised for the first time under the leadership of Chief Justice Chandrachud. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated in the programme before the ceremonial sitting began. A new website of the Supreme Court was launched as part of the celebrations.

Chief Justice Chandrachud explained the two approaches that the Supreme Court takes to enhance the faith in its justice-delivery mechanism.

“First, by not conferring permanence upon judicial decisions, this court is cognisant that the law is not constant, but is ever-evolving. The space for disagreement is always open. In fact, the strongest jurisprudential developments of this court have undergone multiple rounds of litigation over the course of years, where the court has taken divergent views on questions of law.

“The second approach… has been to increase access to courts by diluting the procedural rules for the institution of cases. This court was opened up to citizens in every corner of the nation irrespective of their social and economic status. In 1985, 24,716 letter petitions were received in English, Hindi, and other regional languages. This number has since then undergone an exponential surge. In 2022, about 1,15,120 letter petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court, clearly indicating that the common person believes that they would be able to secure justice in these halls,” the Chief Justice of India said.

He agreed that the increase in access to courts does not necessarily translate into access to justice.

“This court has over the course of years faced immense difficulty in keeping up with the surge in the institution of cases. Currently, a total of 65,915 registered cases are pending before the Supreme Court. Much as we would like to reassure ourselves that the mounting pile represents the faith of citizens in the line, we need to ask hard questions on what needs to be done. There has to be a radical change in the approach to decision-making. In our desire to ensure justice in each individual case, should we risk the court becoming dysfunctional?” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

“I believe that we have to have a common understanding of how we argue and how we decide and above all, on the cases which we select for decision-making. If we do not make hard choices and take difficult calls to resolve these pressing issues, the euphoria generated from the past may well be short-lived,” he said.

The Supreme Court will soon migrate its digital data to a cloud-based infrastructure. The digital Supreme Court reports will make judgments available to people for free in a digital format. All 519 volumes of Supreme Court reports since 1950, covering 36,308 cases, will be available in digital format, bookmarked, user-friendly and with open access.

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