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New Delhi: Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana on Saturday said that political opposition “translating into hostility” – which the country is currently witnessing – is not a sign of a “healthy democracy”, adding that the space for the opposition is “diminishing”.
According to the Indian Express, addressing an event at the Rajasthan assembly, the country’s top judge said that a strong parliamentary democracy “demands strengthening the opposition as well”. He once again raised the issue of laws being passed now “without detailed deliberation and scrutiny”.
“We must note that India was meant to be a parliamentary democracy and not a parliamentary government, for the core idea of democracy is representation. Dr (B R) Ambedkar cautioned that by parliamentary democracy, we can never infer ‘rule by majority’,” he said, according to IE.
Majority rule is “untenable in theory and unjustifiable in practice”, he added. “The framers decided to opt for a representative democracy. A representative democracy is about effective representation. It is where the minority is not overwhelmed by the majority,” CJI Ramana said.
A diverse opinion enriches polity and society, he said, adding that political opposition should not translate into hostility. “These are not signs of a healthy democracy,” he said, according to IE.
“In an ideal world, it is the cooperative functioning of the government and the Opposition which will lead to a progressive democracy. After all, ‘Project Democracy’ is a joint effort of all the stakeholders,” he added.
Raises issue of undertrial prisoners
Addressing the All India Legal Services Authorities’ Meet earlier in the day, Ramana also expressed concern over the high ratio of undertrial prisoners, adding that “process is the punishment”.
“Out of 6.10 lakh prisoners in India, around 80% are undertrial prisoners. We should question procedures which lead to such prolonged incarceration in huge numbers without a trial,” he said, according to IE.
“In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty, indiscriminate arrests to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarcerations of undertrials needs urgent attention,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Union law minister Kiren Rijiju flagged the backlog of 5 crore cases pending in courts. He said the target should be to clear 2 crore cases in two years. “There should be good coordination between the government and the judiciary so that there is no delay in achieving the objective of delivering justice to people,” he said.
“The first question I receive wherever I go is what steps the government is taking to ensure that pendency comes down. This is a challenge and this meeting is a good occasion to discuss it,” Rijiju said.
Responding to the minister’s concern, CJI Ramana said the non-filling up of judicial vacancies was the main reason for the huge pendency of cases.
“I am glad he (Rijiju) has taken up the issue of pendency. We judges also, when we go outside the country, face the same question. You all know the reasons for pendency. I indicated it in the last chief justices-chief ministers conference. You all know the main reason is non-filling of judicial vacancies and not improving the judicial infrastructure,” he said.
He said the National Legal Services Authority is a success story that settled around 2 crore pre-litigation cases, adding that one crore cases were settled last year and it is a great achievement and best model.
The CJI said judicial officers and judges work hard and apart from their daily judicial duty, they work extra hours on Saturdays and Sundays. He said the judiciary is always ahead in trying to resolve all these issues.
“My request is that the government has to take up this pendency of filling up of vacancies as well as providing infrastructure. NALSA is the best model, it is a success story. So on the same lines, we suggested a judicial infrastructure authority in the last chief justices conference. It has unfortunately not been taken up. I hope that the issue will be revisited,” he added.