Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Saturday said that the COVID-19 pandemic would present a huge pendency of cases in courts and a lot of emphasis has to be placed on utilising mediation for resolving many of these matters. The CJI also stressed on the need to focus on mental health and referred to the uncomfortable prediction that there might be a suicide pandemic following the COVID crisis.
"This COVID pandemic is going to present us with huge pendency of cases. I do not see any way out of it. We have to decide cases," the CJI said during a virtual event where he launched the book - Judiciary, Judges and the Administration of Justice' - authored by former top court judge Justice R Banumathi. The CJI said he believes that this is the time when a lot of emphasis has to be placed on utilising mediation, pre-litigation and post-litigation mediation to resolve many matters.
"I am not suggesting every matter can be, but when the pandemic goes away and the lockdowns are all lifted, we are going to face a flood of cases which I do not know how we are going to decide if we go in the usual way of following the detailed procedure and this is something which we all have to put in our minds together to deal with," he said. Addressing the gathering, Justice N V Ramana said judges are now being construed as soft targets for criticism and are becoming "victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social media posting.
Justice Ramana, the senior-most judge of the apex court after the CJI, said that judges have to balance their social life in order to be independent. It is completely upon the judge to maintain a distance. Judges themselves restrain from speaking in their own defence and they are now being construed as soft targets for criticism. This issue is further complicated by the proliferation of social media and technology. Judges are becoming victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social media posting, he said.
Raising the issue of mental health, the CJI said it requires serious attention as there is a very uncomfortable prediction about a suicide pandemic. "I don't believe and sincerely hope that it does not happen, he said, adding that pandemic has brought two things amongst people which is very troublesome -- depressive tendency and unnecessary aggression.
"It is high time that we devote energy to mental health," he said, adding that the Supreme Court has taken an initiative to deal with the mental health issue and provide professional mental health advice, which the secretary general of the top court would soon announce. He said the judiciary belongs to the nation and its achievements are the result of unflinching dedication and commitment of numerous individuals on and off the bench.
The CJI said that for judges and consequently for the judiciary, the biggest challenge is to ensure that the nation inches towards the goal set in the Constitution. He said that an independent judiciary is sine qua non' (essential condition) to achieve the same.
It is not for the personal benefit of the judges but for the effective exercise of the power vested in the judiciary, he said, adding, In fact, even the freedom of speech of judges is curtailed by the same laws which prevent people from saying whatever they feel like, adverse to the independence of the judiciary. Justice Ramana said there is a misunderstanding that judges lead a life of luxury in their ivory towers.
From my own experience, I can state that the life of a judge is not better than others. There seems to be a misunderstanding that judges lead a life of luxury in their ivory towers. However, the reality is quite different and it is difficult for others to comprehend, he said. The CJI said that the book authored by Justice (retd) Banumathi is unique in the sense that it provides valuable insight into the functioning of the colossal institution of the judiciary.
Speaking on the occasion, apex court judge Justice DY Chandrachud referred to the dedication of Justice (retd) Banumathi towards the cause of justice and legal profession. Justice Chandrachud referred to the work done by the Supreme Court E-committee, of which he is the chairperson, and also provided data of cases at the district level during the pandemic.
He said around 28.66 lakh cases were registered at the district level in the pandemic period out of which 12.69 lakh matters were disposed of. He also referred to the data uploaded on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) and said around 3.39 crore cases are pending.
Justice Chandrachud said data of around 9.91 crore disposed of cases is available on NJDG along with around 12.53 crore orders and judgements. Justice (retd) Banumathi said the book highlights the various essential facets of judgeship and also gives a comprehensive view of accomplishments of the E-court project.
She said the book impresses upon the judges and lawyers for the smart use of technology to make the judicial process more transparent and efficient. Supreme Court judge Justice Indu Malhotra and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice D N Patel also addressed the gathering which was attended by several other judges of the apex court.