Chief Justice of India, Sharad Arvind Bobde, on Saturday urged academics to watch how the Uniform Civil Code governs all Goans on issues of marriage and succession, irrespective of their religion.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the new Bombay HC building at Goa, the CJI said that the legacy of the administration of Justice at Goa, which spans four and a half centuries, must be acknowledged.
"Goa has what the Constitution framers envisaged for India – a Uniform Civil Code. And I have had the great privilege of administering justice under that code. I have heard a lot of academic talk about the Uniform Civil Code. I would request all those intellectuals to come here and watch the justice system to know what it turns out to be."
Justice Bobde said he sat in Goa so often that he would often hear remarks like, 'Justice Bobde is a Goa Judge.'
He emphasized the need for a new High Court building at its principal seat at Bombay.
"To use the law minister's phrase, I would like to "flag" this…. Bombay also needs a new building. The law minister and Justice Ramana would remember this especially that the Bombay building was constructed for 7 judges, it is now housing more than 40. It is impossible."
He said the proposal for a new High Court building in Mumbai is pending with the central government.
"I would request you (Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad) and brother Ramana to pursue this with full might."
The CJI said that judges are now used to frivolous litigation.
"The administration of justice, which Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad said, is often tried to be made difficult by some vested interests. But that is something we as judges have got used to."
He quoted Kipling and a line at the Wimbledon Centra Court to make his point.
"The compere, who quoted Rudyard Kipling, stopped short at one very important line. It says, 'If neither force nor loving friends can hurt you if all men count with you, but none too much.
And the next line, which is there on the Wimbledon Centre Court, I think is very important. 'If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.' At the end is what she (the compere) said – 'And which is more, you'll be a Man, my son!"
The CJI further claimed that though the pandemic has posed a lot of questions on access to justice, it has paved the way for modernising the courtroom.
"Though building more courtrooms are necessary and important, there was very little emphasis on modernising existing courtrooms…I see a trend of having smaller courtrooms in the future because of Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad's ministry. The e-filing and the data which can be contained, is going to take away the need for many storage rooms."
Speaking about the rule of law in medieval Goa, Justice Bobde said, "The most significant Kingdom to conquer and rule Goa were the Kadambas. From the 10th to 14th century and administered Justices on a basis of ancient Hindu texts. The judicial system was headed by a CJ known as a Dharma Adhyaksh."
Justice NV Ramana, addressed as the upholder of civil liberties, also spoke at the gathering, emphasizing the importance of sufficient infrastructure for access to justice, especially in district courts.
"After independence, the judiciary has not progressed at an equal pace as compared to other branches of the State... the judiciary is considered rigid due to its procedural requirement. Integrating science and technology in the Judiciary has been an uphill task," he said.
"We have all witnessed courts operating from, old dilapidated structures and rented premises, without proper record rooms or even staff. There are premises without waiting-rooms and washrooms, creche services. Situations like these have an adverse impact on the qualitative dispensation of justice." he said.
Justice Ramana said, "We can assert true accessibility when a person with maximum disadvantage can still knock on the doors of a court of justice."
He explained that the Centre and States need to cooperate and create a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation as a one-time measure, to cater to the need for judicial infrastructure in the country. "Such a corporation would bring the uniformity and standardization required to revolutionize judicial infrastructure."
Justice Ramana elaborated that "Considering the intricacies involved in the judicial process," a sustainable and inclusive model of modernisation of judicial infrastructure is necessary.
"Undeniably strengthening judicial infrastructure is the most important tool to reduce the pendency of cases to clear backlog. However, the understanding of judicial infrastructure has to transcend beyond issues of pendency vacancy or the numberer of courtrooms. It should involve modernisation up-gradation and creating a barrier-free, environment," he said.
He further said that lawyers have been at the forefront of the freedom struggle and it is important for them to take up more pro bono cases in today's times. "If senior lawyers do at least two pro-bono cases a month, it would change the legal aid landscape of the country and will increase the quality of service."
Justice Ramana further praised CJI Bobde for his efforts during the pandemic, keeping the justice delivery system alive through virtual hearings.
Union Law and Judiciary Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that during the Covid lockdown 82 lakh cases were heard through VC, in all, "59309 by SC; 27,58,560 cases by HCs; 54,46,876 cases by subordinate courts. The Bombay HC including Goa heard over 64000 cases." he said.
He spoke about the landmark judgements that have come from Goa in the field of environment, conservation and sustainable development. "The concerns those judgements have flagged will always be relevant."
Regarding the increasing trend of frivolous PILs and expecting certain type of judgements through popular opinion on social media, Prasad said, "They file a PIL and start a trend on social media that only a certain type of judgment should come in the case. And if it doesn't come, they start criticising the judges. The judiciary needs to be independent .. this "campaign justice" just isn't acceptable."
The dignitaries at the event were CJI Bobde, Union Minister Law and Judiciary Ravi Shankar Prasad, Justice NV Ramana , Justice BR Gavai, Justice AM Khanvilkar, CJ Bombay HC Dipankar Datta, CM of Goa Pramod Sawant, Justices AA Sayyed and SS Shinde and Law Minister of Goa Nilesh Cabral.