It’s easy to make sweeping comments on what the executive or the legislature or the judiciary must do, but the reality is that India with its teeming population faces “unique challenges” which are “not easy to handle”, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said while addressing an event to celebrate the Independence Day, organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) here on Monday.
“It is not easy to handle the situation which you have in India. It is very unique. It is very easy to pass comments and very easy to comment that the legislature should do this, executive should do that, the judiciary should finish all the pending cases…it is very easy to make sweeping comments,” Rijiju said.
The minister said, members ask him in Parliament why there is pendency of cases and why there is so much of delay in justice delivery. “At times, I become helpless because I can’t answer in definite terms. Taking advantage of my privilege in the House, I can also speak like the way other members do. But I have also to understand that I have to come back to the judiciary, I have to talk to Chief Justice, I have to interact with the judges. So, I have to understand, there is a Lakshman rekha which I will never dare to cross,” he added.
Speaking of the unique challenges, Rijiju said “it is not that any organ of our State is functioning less than the other one. The fact that our country is very unique, so are the challenges.”
The minister pointed out that “each judge (in India) disposes of 40-50 cases in a day…judges of no other country have this kind of workload to handle”.
He said unlike the United Kingdom where an MP constituency doesn’t have more than 70,000 voters, an MP in India represents an average 3-million people. Besides attending to their concerns, the MP also has to perform his Parliamentary duties. “The only other country which is larger than India in size and population is China, which is not democratic. So, no country can face the problems which India faces,” Rijiju said.
He said “in the same manner, Indian legislature, executive, judiciary face unique challenges”, and “sometimes as a member of the legislature, I fail to appreciate what challenges the judiciary face. And the judiciary also fails to understand what the executive or legislature is facing”.
Emphasising the need for all the organs to work together, he said “if we don’t work together, we will not understand each other. If we don’t understand each other, we will never be able to solve the problem of this country. We have to come together. There’s no excuse in that…there are challenges in every sphere of life.” Rijiju added that the “government by virtue of being the executive…has a larger responsibility”.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana explained how the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted work in the top court and left a backlog.
“I remember the time when I took over, the pandemic nearly destroyed us. Even my family members couldn’t attend the swearing-in ceremony, there was fear everywhere. The court has inherited the backlog of nearly a year on account of Covid. In the last 16 months, we could physically assemble only for 55 days. I wish the situation were different and we could be more productive,” he said and hoped that “situation will become normal in the near future and courts will function to the full potential”.
The CJI said that “under the Constitutional framework, each organ has been given a unique obligation” and that securing justice to citizens is not the responsibility of the court alone which is made clear by Article 38 of the Constitution “which mandates the State to secure justice: social, economic and political”.
“Every deed of each organ of the State has to be in the spirit of the Constitution. I must note that all the three organs of the State — the executive, the legislature and the judiciary — are equal repositories of Constitutional trust,” he said.
The CJI also said that “the legislature may not be able to foresee the issues which might come up during the implementation. By interpretation of statutes, the courts have given effect to the true intent of the legislature. The courts have breathed life into the Statutes by making them relevant to contemporary times”.
Referring to the faith of the people in the judiciary, he said “people are confident that they will get relief and justice from the judiciary. It gives them the strength to pursue a dispute. They know that when things go wrong, the judiciary will stand by them”.