Law and Justice – A paradigm shift

By: Kiren Rijiju

May 16, 2014, was a pivotal moment in India’s history. India’s electorate voted for the visionary government of Shri Narendra Modi Ji with tremendous hope. Of course, diverse voices and dissent are an inseparable part of India, and as a true believer in democratic values, I will not dismiss criticism. But criticism must be constructive and factual. In this article, I, KirenRijiju, Minister of Law & Justice, will show the world the immense progress made by the Ministry of Law and Justice, and these will all be factually correct.

Have we done enough? Of course not. Are we on the right path? Absolutely.

In 2019, Shri Narendra Modi ji issued a clarion call. With over 3.30 crore cases piled up in Indian courts,the Modi-led government instructed the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to “find out a way for reducing delays and arrears” in the country’s justice system. I can say with that not only have we done our best to address these, but also laid the foundation for success in the coming years.

Starting with the achievements of the Legislative Department. A total of 1,486 obsolete and redundant laws have been repealed by the Government during the past eight years to bring systemic legal reforms. Amendments to the Registration of Electors Rule and Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 simplify the various forms to make them user friendly. For a convenient process of registration as an elector, we also amended the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 to provide for a postal ballot facility for senior citizens above 80 years, persons with disability and service voters.

The enactment of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 for the prevention of divorce by way of talaq-e-biddat has far-reaching implications and once again shows that when our government says “SabkaSaathSabkaVikas” we truly mean it.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) partnered with the United Nations Development Programme on a project titled ‘Access to Justice for Marginalised People’, in two phases. Under both the phases, the programme focused on improving the institutional capacities of key justice service providers enabling them to effectively serve the poor and disadvantaged.

DoJ successfully implemented 38 projects through innovative models and practices including a partnership with State Legal Service Authorities, State Institute of Rural Developments, Government Departments, CSOs, Academic Institutions etc.

In 2020, an evaluation by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) recommended scaling up these programmes at all-India levels. This resulted in a comprehensive and systemic solution to access to justice scheme titled “Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice in India” (DISHA). This scheme gives impetus to the implementation of SDG-16 to ensure ‘Access to Justice for All’.

Significant objectives of DISHA were to strengthen the pre-litigation mechanism through Tele-Law, develop an effective dispensation of pro bono legal services through its Nyaya Bandhu programme, and facilitate the disposal of pending cases in the courts through its cadre of retired Judges called Nyaya Mitra.

Tele-law is one of the most ambitious-yet-rewarding platforms. Launched in 2017, Tele-Law is an e-interface platform that aims to empower people through pre-litigation advice seeking to connect the vulnerable sections of society, through a dedicated pool of Panel Lawyers via video conferencing/telephonic facilities available at Common Service Centres (CSCs).

The Legal Services Authorities have ingeniously integrated digital technology into conventional methods of justice delivery and moved Lok Adalat to the virtual platform. It enhances and improves people’s accessibility to justice and reduces the burden on courts by settling the pending cases and cases at the pre-litigation stage.

Since 2016, 65.22 lakh cases through State LokAdalats, 502.11 lakh cases through National LokAdalats and 5.89 lakh cases through Permanent LokAdalats have been settled.

During Covid-19, the District and High Courts heard nearly 1.90 crore cases (as of 31.03.2022) and the Supreme Court did more than 2,18,891 virtual hearings (as of 14.03.2022) making it the world leader in virtual hearings.

1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) were set up in 2019 including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts across the nation for time bound completion of trials relating to sexual offences. The 722 FTSCs have already been operationalized including 406 exclusive POCSO Courts.

In November 2021, I inaugurated the “Online Course on Constitution of India” on the eve of Constitution Day initiated by the Department of Legal Affairs in collaboration with National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), University of Law, Hyderabad. The course familiarises with the text of the Constitution and examines the historical evolution through a series of 15 conceptual videos.

I am glad that under the able leadership of Shri Narendra Modi Ji, the Ministry of Law and Justice has taken immense strides towards that goal. And yes, I am glad I have been a part of this process. Jai Hind.

The writer is Minister of Law & Justice.


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