M K Stalin reiterates Tamil Nadu's demands on judiciary to PM, CJI
M K Stalin reiterates Tamil Nadu's demands on judiciary to PM, CJI
Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K.Stalin has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana over the "declining representation from all the sections of the society in the higher judiciary". "I write this letter to bring to your kind attention certain important aspects relating to the higher Judiciary that needs to be addressed early," the letter by Stalin reads.
"There is no doubt that the federal structure of polity is the cornerstone of our Constitution. All our three pillars of democracy – legislature, executive, and the judiciary are established within this federal structure. Though there is a hierarchy of Courts, with the Supreme Court of India as the Apex Court, the unitary makeup of the judicial branch is only to ensure judicial discipline so that the judgements of the Supreme Court are followed by all Courts and authorities in India," it says.
In other aspects, we must not lose sight of the fact that the judicial branch also must reflect the spirit of Co-operative Federalism enshrined in our Constitution. In that context, it becomes all the more important that the Supreme Court's and the High Court's composition reflects the diverse and pluralistic society of our great nation. The Tamil Nadu CM said, "For the past few years, we have been witnessing declining representation from all the sections of the society in the higher judiciary, leading to a 'diversity deficit. Judicial diversity is fundamental to the quality of judging.
A broad based, heterogeneous group of Judges representing various sections of the society as a whole alone can reflect the views and values of society as a whole, particularly on issues involving historical, traditional, linguistic and cultural matters. This is because they would provide wider perspectives since the group of Judges would naturally interpret and enforce the law based on their multivarious backgrounds," he said.
Stalin said that all the States must find proportional representation on the Bench of the Supreme Court. "It will then truly reflect the diverse nature of Indian society in its various dimensions. Therefore, I request your good selves to include the requirements to maintain social diversity and social justice in the appointment of High Court and Supreme Court Judges in the Memorandum of Procedure to appoint Judges and follow the same in true letter and spirit," he said.
"Another issue in which the federal character of our nation must be reflected in the judicial branch, is the establishment of Permanent Regional Benches of the Supreme Court of India. When the Constitution was enacted, it was in the contemplation of the framers of the Constitution that all citizens of this country, rich or poor must have direct access to the Court," the Tamil Nadu CM said.
"That is why they enacted Article 32, a privilege not available in most other countries. Yet over time, this privilege has been eroded by economic constraints. Article 32 is now practically available only to (i) citizens who are geographically close to the Supreme Court and (ii) the financially privileged class to whom costs of litigation and travel do not matter," he said.
Stalin said that "such a situation is antithetical to the constitutional mandate under Article 39". "Considering the fact that the Supreme Court is located at New Delhi (which is not equidistant to all parts of the country) and is far away from many States, particularly the Southern, South Western & Eastern States, the citizens in these States are deprived of their fundamental right to approach the Court".
he said that while there are 25 High Courts across the nation, "it is seen from data that the number of appeals being filed in the Supreme Court is more from States around the NCR region than States located further away from Delhi. The Constituent Assembly Debates show that even the framers of the Constitution, as early as 1950, recognized that the Supreme Court would need to have branches in other parts of the country as the nation grows".
"That is why in Article 130, the Constitution permits the Court to sit in other places in the country. The legislature has been conscious that the time is nigh for the establishment of Permanent Regional Benches and the Standing Committees of Parliament have recommended the same in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and most recently in 2021," Stalin said.
He said that various Law Commission Reports like the 229th Report have reiterated the need for Permanent Regional Benches. Stalin said that the establishment of Regional Benches "will in no way affect the independence of the judiciary since the control over these Benches would still remain with the Chief Justice of India. It is not out of place to point out that in China, which is the only other country with a population greater than ours, there are nine circuit Courts of its Supreme Court".
"Therefore, I request you to take appropriate steps to establish Permanent Regional Benches of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai, apart from the Constitution Bench in New Delhi, so that the citizens in other parts of this vast country have equal access to the Supreme Court. Stalin also reaised the issue of official languages in the high courts.
"In four High Courts - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, Hindi has been authorized as the official language in addition to English. One, therefore, wonders, what is the impediment to making the official language of other States the official language of the High Court, in addition to English?" he said. "In this regard, I wish to inform that State has taken several initiatives to bring out standard books on Law in Tamil and moreover as a language that is both Classical and a vibrant modern language it would be perfectly suitable to be used in the High Court," Stalin said.
"Furthermore, I consider that making law and justice comprehensible to the common man in its proceedings is essential in the justice delivery system. The only concern with making the State's official language the language of the High Court can be the requirement of translation when Judges from other States sit in the High Court.
However, with the improvement in modern technology, these difficulties can be easily bridged. In a function held on 23.04.2022 at the Madras High Court, where I had the privilege of sharing the dais with the Chief Justice, who had said in a lighter vein that “judicial proceedings cannot be like chanting of mantras in a wedding that nobody understands”.
Yet, this has unfortunately become true in today's High Courts. Therefore, I request your good selves to take appropriate steps to declare Tamil, the official language of the Government of Tamil Nadu, as the official language of the High Court of Judicature at Madras and its Bench at Madurai, in addition to English. I placed these three demands in my speech in the said function on 23.04.2022 in the Madras High Court premises in the august presence of the Chief Justice.
I remain in the fond hope that these three demands of the people of Tamil Nadu will be considered and implemented by your good selves in the nearest future," CM Stalin said.