" The common thread that binds judges across the world is a commitment to the dispensation of justice. This commitment underlies the creation of a transnational judicial network which thrives on the constant exchange of ideas and dialogue on common challenges that require our immediate attention - first and foremost, increasing diversity in the judiciary as well as the role of the judiciary in ensuring a gender just world", said Chief Justice SA Bobde during the Valedictory function of International Judges Conference held in New Delhi.
Read the Full Text of the Speech Here
Judiciary and the Changing World
Sharad Arvind Bobde
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India
1. My travels to South America, Africa and Europe, have given me the pleasure of interacting with great judicial minds from various jurisdictions. These interactions with sister and brother judges across the world, instilled in me the firm belief in the value of learning from the experiences of Judges from other jurisdictions and sharing my own experiences. I learnt the truth of the words James Russell Lowell - "As one lamp lights another, nor grows less, So nobleness enkindleth nobleness. The last two days have been the culmination of that vision and belief. I thank the President of India, the Government of India and all our distinguished guests who have made this vision a reality.
2. The common thread that binds judges across the world is a commitment to the dispensation of justice. This commitment underlies the creation of a transnational judicial network which thrives on the constant exchange of ideas and dialogue on common challenges that require our immediate attention - first and foremost, increasing diversity in the judiciary as well as the role of the judiciary in ensuring a gender just world.
3. The judiciary is the guardian of constitutional values and serves to counter-balance populist forces in a commitment to the rule of law. Inherent in this role are active measures to bring women within the judicial fold. We have learnt from the illuminating session on the judiciary and gender justice that incremental measures are only the first step towards championing the cause of gender equality.
4. As judges, in the discharge of our duties we are exposed to arguments, strategies and solutions from various jurisdictions. The delivery of justice has not been untouched by the forces of globalisation. Not long-ago, legal education in a foreign jurisdiction was a rare oddity. Today, the vast majority of lawyers and judges are educated in more than one country.
5. This globalisation of the Bar has been accompanied by the globalisation of the Bench. Increasingly confronted with transnational challenges, judges regularly reach beyond their borders to inspect the jurisprudence of other countries to discern valuable principles. Recently, judgments and opinions of the Indian Supreme Court were cited by over four jurisdictions across the world. Our own judgments look to the wisdom of our international colleagues. Yet a judge never loses sight of the need to tailor judicial decisions to the social realities of their own country.
6. The Indian judiciary though not in the present form, has an ancient origin. It is uniquely situated, connected by the yarn of history to the grand old traditions of common law, yet also charting its own course in the face of a geographically, linguistically and culturally diverse realities. India serves as a beacon of hope to independent and developing countries.
7. The Indian Supreme Court is responsible for upholding the rights of over 1.3 billion people. We have more approximately 17,500 courts. In a country where over 22 languages and several thousand dialects are spoken, the Supreme Court has mandated the translation of its judgments into nine languages. A commitment to access to justice furthers the commitment that constitutions are not meant only to check people in power but also empower those who have been deprived of it. The provision of judgments in vernacular languages makes accessible to people from diverse linguistic backgrounds
8. As we look to the future, a significant consideration in the delivery of justice is the protection and preservation of the environment in the dispensation of justice. In one of the cases before us, we have held that "The present generation has no right to impede the safety and wellbeing of the next generation or the generation to come thereafter."
9. This auditorium in which all of us are seated forms part of the newly built energy efficient additional court complex of the Supreme Court of India. This sustainable architecture marvel is an embodiment of the commitment of the Indian judiciary in making judicial infrastructure in India sustainable. The complex has energy efficient LED lighting and the solar grid is capable of managing 40% of the peak consumption. Environmental issues cannot be hindered by national and international borders. Water and wind flow seamlessly across the earth and even under it. The growth of vegetation effects the animals and the man and a man affects both. Perhaps there is the greatest need for single system of laws in this regard. It is said that human beings are seeds as well as parasites to the earth. We take much more than we give back to the Earth. As Richard Rogers said, "the only way forward to improve the quality of environment is to get everybody involved."
10. In India, we are utilising technology in innovative ways to facilitate and assist the delivery of justice. Indian courts are located across the length and breadth of our vast country. As part of the e-Courts project in India, we have ensured that no matter where a judicial officer is located, from the remote mountaintops of the Himalayas to the sandy beaches of Kerala, they are electronically connected to the national judicial data grid. We have harnessed the rise of smartphone technology and telecommunications connectivity to streamline the delivery of service and summons, empowering our bailiffs to reach litigants accurately and efficiently across the country.
11. As we head into the future, we are exploring the use of artificial intelligence to automate simple tasks associated with the administration of justice. With the speed of reading 1 million characters per second, the volume of any data for any purpose whether research or analysis, becomes easy to deal with. But it must be treated as a tool and its introduction into the judicial system must be done with hesitation and caution. Lest it grows in directions which affects human discretion. It probably never will and the human mind will retain its supremacy. A small question and answer allays apprehensions. Would any of us have travelled to this auditorium to hear a computer speak?
12. The conference has also presented us with an opportunity to discuss the myriad of ways in which a foundational document can be interpreted. Drawing on the maturing traditions of comparative constitutional analysis, has afforded us an opportunity to learn from the unique historical experiences of each other. Finally, across the world, significant strides are being made in the employment of technology in the dispensation of the justice.
13. As I stand here today, I am conscious that there is much work to be done – both in India and across the world. The two facets of globalisation that have posed the greatest challenges to the judiciaries across the world are the rise of global supply chains and the proliferation of information technology. Technology has placed the world in the palms of our hands, making it possible to communicate with great ease across the world. But the widespread use of technology has also brought with it concerns over mass data collection and an individual's right to privacy. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the goddess Iustitia, or as we more commonly know her today, 'Lady Justice' has been depicted blind-folded. The blind fold personifies the principle of impartiality and that justice is blind to the power, wealth or status of the parties before her. While impartiality remains at the heart of a judge's duty – judges are called on to look beyond the parties and into the future – to anticipate future developments in the world and ensure the courts of today are ready for the world of tomorrow.
14. The last two days represent the first step taken in India towards crystallising a broader international dialogue amongst members of the judiciary from various countries across the globe. As they say "One cannot travel very far, unless they begin very near."
15. I hope that in the future, not only will this conference become a regular feature of the judicial calendar across the world, but a shining symbol of a global network of guardians against injustice.