Report No. 114
The workshops organised by the Commission attracted a broad spectrum of intelligentsia interested in legal judicial system. Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, Judges of the Subordinate Judiciary and Members of the Tribunals, Advocates, academics, social activists, votaries of public interest litigation, officials manning the Law and Justice Department of the Governments and consumers of justice participated and enriched the debate. There was a broad consensus with the proposals set out in the working paper.
There was near unanimity on the question that the present justice system has not only outlived its utility but, in fact, has become counter productive. Divergence in views appeared not on the requirements of change but the scope, volume, direction and degree of change. Votaries of status quo, while conceding that the justice system has become stratified, advocated peripheral changes. This ignores the past experience. Some centrists were of the opinion that the system which is in vogue over a century should be given a further lease of life and to make it resilient, they suggested such inputs as additional manpower and modem electronic gadgets.
On behalf of the Law Commission, after explaining the salient features of the proposals, the debate was listened to with rapt attention so that any suggestion worth considering may not escape its notice. Whenever, necessary the Commission intervened in the debate. When more .clarifications were offered, those who came with reservations were ready to reconsider their views and finally a broad consensus emerged. A free and uninhibited democratic discussion was bound to throw-up hard-core negativists. While they advocated hands off from the present system, they were unable to explain its present tragic position and how to make it resilient and effective. No suggestion in that behalf worth-considering was put forth.
An analysis of the views expressed by participants revealed a broad consensus in favour of the proposals. Speakers representing social service institutions desired some changes in certain proposals while concurring with the suggestion of introducing a new forum for resolution of disputes. They were activists in the field of legal aid movement, social service and Lok Adalats. Their reservations were on the question of qualifications for panelists, method of election versus selection and the authority to drawup a panel of lay Judges. There were votaries of the retention of the present Code of Civil Procedure with some further changes to be introduced in the same. They were of the opinion that substantial justice can only be rendered by following a detailed prescribed procedure.
Some participants coming from rural areas had genuine apprehension about the lay Judges remaining judicially independent while participating in decision making process. Their apprehension was that the village life has so much been politicised that it is impossible to come across any 'social animal, who is a political'. Add to it, according to them the factious village atmosphere dissolving divisive tendencies along caste, class and religious denomination and, therefore, it would be impossible to find honest, socially-oriented village people who can be trusted for rendering even handed justice.
While appreciating that knowledge of law is not a sine qua non for dispensing justice, they voiced their reservation on the question whether a society governed by rule of law can have judicial administration not manned by legally trained persons. They were disconcerted by the fact that in a caste dominated bureaucracy, the system of selection of lay Judges would effectively exclude persons belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women, who must find representation in administration of justice. These difficulties cannot be dismissed as being without merits. All safeguards have to be devised to protect against such vicissitudes that the new forum may face.