President Droupadi Murmu Highlights Problem Of Undertrial Persons Languishing In Prisons For Years
26 May 2023 4:11 AM GMT
President of India Droupadi Murmu has highlighted the issue of persons languishing in prisons for years as undertrials.
While speaking about access to justice, President Murmu further spoke about the condition of undertrial prisoners in India, who have been incarcerated for years despite not being adjudged guilty by a court of law. “One of the reasons is that courts here are overburdened,” the president said, before urging society as a whole to address the root cause of the problem. “These people languish for years in prisons that are overcrowded, making their lives all the more difficult. We should address the root cause of the problem. When I say ‘we’, I mean the whole society,” she said. President Murmu added that she was happy that this issue was being debated and the best minds were seized of the matter.
She was delivering her address while inaugurating a new building of the Jharkhand High Court on May 25. Also in attendance were Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal, Chief Minister Hemant Soren, and Governor CP Radhakrishnan.
The language of courts should be inclusive so that parties and interest citizens can be effective stakeholders in the justice delivery system, she said.
“I have often spoken about this. I am happy that steps are being taken to guarantee access to justice, especially for women belonging to different segments of society. But this is always a work in progress and we must constantly endeavour to find new ways to ensure access to justice,” she said. Access to justice, she elaborated, had two crucial components – first, lowering the cost of litigation since it could make justice prohibitively expensive for many citizens; and second, using regional languages to make court processes comfortable for those who are comfortable in languages other than English. She said:
“English has been primary language of courts in India, but large sections of population are left out because of this. Language of justice should be inclusive so that parties and interested citizens can be effective stakeholders. Supreme Court of India made a worthy beginning when it started making its judgements available in a number of Indian languages. Many other courts doing so now. Needless to say, that in a state like Jharkhand, with rich linguistic variety, these factors become more significant. I am sure authorities are trying to make court processes for inclusive for people who are comfortable in languages other than English.”
She also praised Chief Justice for delivering his address in Hindi, saying, “I would like to commend the Chief Justice of India for speaking in Hindi today. Other judges would also surely follow his example.” The chief justice, in his speech, also reiterated a guiding principle that he has on many occasions emphasised – that of having a justice delivery system that reached out to people, instead of people having to reach out to it. “The Supreme Court and the high courts conduct their business in English. We can reach out to people living in the 6.4 lakh villages – away from the English language – by translating judgements in official languages,” Justice Chandrachud said in Hindi, before happily adding that the top court has initiated the process of translating judgements to scheduled languages and has already translated more than 6,000 judgements into Hindi.
Besides this, President Murmu asked stakeholders, including members of the legal fraternity – judges, distinguished jurists, and senior members of the Bar – to find innovative ways to expand the reach of justice. Two factors key to improving access to justice were modern technology and an emphasis on the younger generation, who would, with their new and original ideas, find ways to innovate the justice delivery system.
Notably, before concluding, the president also highlighted the need to find out a way to ensure complete justice by ensuring that litigants, who have secured verdicts in their favour after fighting long, protracted legal battles, actually get the benefit of the relief. She explained:
“There are a number of cases that reach finality in either the high courts or the Supreme Court. But, sometimes, even when a favourable verdict has been received – after years of waiting – litigants find that they have not received what they were fighting for. I come from a tiny village where I worked in a small family counselling centre. We used to revisit cases even after they attained finality, so that we could find out, even after closing the case in our books, how these families were doing. The aggrieved litigant can always file a contempt petition, but they would naturally be worried about initiating a second round of litigation. Therefore, if there is no legal provision now, I am certain that some way could be introduced.”
“I can relate to these people,” said President Murmu, who hails from Odisha’s Uparbeda village and was a school teacher before joining politics. She concluded by issuing an impassioned call to action to the audience, saying “The responsibility to ensure that complete justice is done to the litigants is yours. I am sure there is a way.”