Public spaces often reflect pre-existing inequalities in society: CJI Chandrachud

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone for the construction of the new Telangana High Court building at Rajendranagar in Hyderabad.


Published Mar 28, 2024 | 10:03 AMUpdatedMar 28, 2024 | 10:03 AM

CJI DY Chandrachud

Asserting that public spaces often reflect pre-existing social inequalities in society, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Wednesday, 27 March, said the creation of new infrastructure is not only good for lawyers and judges but it is also intended to reach out to the broader cross-section of our society.

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone for the construction of the new Telangana High Court building at Rajendranagar in Hyderabad and inaugurating 32 e-Seva Kendras in the state digitally.

The creation of infrastructure plays a significant role in the mainstreaming of communities and groups in society who have been traditionally excluded from the judicial process, he said.

“We must all remember that public spaces often reflect pre-existing social inequalities in our society. Our infrastructure sometimes reflects subtle signs of exclusion, such as lack of washrooms for women, which I referred to earlier, ramps for the disabled or differently-abled, creches and lactating rooms for young mothers,” he said.

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e-Seva Kendras

The reason why e-Seva Kendras is being focused upon is that there is an internet divide in India even now and not everyone has access to it. Not every lawyer has access to a smartphone and not every citizen has a laptop, he said.

Justice Chandrachud said the conspicuous absence of disabled-friendly parking spots conveys that courts are not meant for persons with disabilities or they must overcome additional hurdles to gain access to justice.

The lawyers may belong to different regions and come from different cultural backgrounds, but the most important thing that marks them out is the great syncretic tradition in India. The lawyers, in the work they do, rise above their “birthmarks” which define their existence, he said.

A watershed movement

The setting up of a new high court building is a watershed in the history of Telangana as the dignity with which the lawyers and judges can work defines the dignity of the institution itself, he said.

“We have, for instance, district courts across India. I have been an administrative judge as a young judge of the high court in many of those districts where there was not even a common washroom for women lawyers. Young women judges who had to come to court to do their work, often found that there was not even a washroom for young women judges…,” he said.

“This is the truth of the Indian district judiciary though things are changing,” he said.

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Gaps in infrastructure

Recently, the Supreme Court, through the Centre for Research and Planning put out a report on the state of the Indian judiciary, he said.

The report shows a significant deficit in infrastructure not merely in the district judiciary but in the High Courts as well, he said.

The CJI observed that the judges must have a sense of belonging, and a sense of self-worth and lawyers must have a sense of self-worth that the institution in which they spend their lives is truly an institution to be proud of.

“And therefore the creation of new chambers for lawyers, the creation of areas where judges and lawyers can interact, areas where we can train younger members of the bar to join the district judiciary is crucial to the evolution of our own institution of the judiciary of which we are such proud members today,” he said.

As young women enter the district judiciary, in the next decade or two, they will be rising up to the echelons to hold positions at the bar and judicial positions, whether in the district judiciary or in the high courts in an ever-growing manner, he said.

“It is therefore important that we create new Bar rooms for women, areas where they can work, they can debate and they can mentor each other,” he said.

Mentoring of young lawyers

He also stressed the importance of mentoring young lawyers by the seniors.

“I will impress upon members of the bar that the one thing today which the bar lacks is mentoring and I find that in the Supreme Court as well. If that is so in the Supreme Court which is the apex bar of the nation, I can well imagine what must be the position across India.

“Young lawyers today are not mentored by seniors. It is important that young members of the bar are mentored by the seniors,” he said.

“I dare say it is important that judges must also mentor not just young lawyers but colleagues on the bench as well…,” he said.

Supreme Court judges PS Narasimha, SV Bhatti, PV Sanjay Kumar, Telangana HC CJ Alok Aradhe and several other legal luminaries attended the event.

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