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It is time we resort to pre-litigation mediation: CJI SA Bobde

Chief Justice of India SA Bobde recently called for promoting pre-litigation solutions such as mediation during an inaugural function for the Patna High Court's new ‘Centenary building.'

The event which took place on Saturday also saw the presence of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court Sanjay Karol, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Judges of the Supreme Court Navin Sinha, Indira Banerjee and Hemant Gupta, and Judges of the Patna High Court.

During his address, CJI Bobde called for reducing dependence on court litigation to resolve disputes, by encouraging parties to opt for ‘pre-litigation mediation’ in both civil and criminal cases as a solution-oriented approach. He commented,

“Litigation is fine and making provisions for the litigation is fine. But it is time we resort to pre-litigation mediation.”

He remarked that he has discussed on the issue with the Law Minister and opined that such mediation should have the force of law.

He added that the need for new Court buildings implied that there was an increased legal literacy. While this is necessary, one must not encourage litigiousness and cantankerousness, Bobde said. He observed that people were increasingly approaching Courts to settle their disputes instead of taking law into their own hands.

The Chief Justice remarked that the “Theory of Separation of Powers” does not imply hostility between the branches of the government. It is extremely important that all the branches listen to the voice of the Constitution and the government understands the needs of the Courts.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his speech, reminisced about his association with the High Court. He recalled that many great lawyers, freedom fighters and the first President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad practiced at the Patna High Court. The Court was established in 1916 and today, it is a great symbol of Bihar’s identity, he said.

The Law Minister also talked about the National Judicial Data Grid, where 18.09 crore case statuses are available on a click of the button and 13.59 crore orders and judgments can be referred to on the portal. He claimed that India has nearly 4 lakh Common Services Centres where, through Tele-Law, citizens can seek free pre-litigation advice from lawyers. Since 2017, 6.35 lakh pieces of advice have been given by lawyers who are willing to give pro-bono legal services.

Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, in his address, traced the history of Patna High Court. He talked about how India’s architectural heritage is replete with stunning creations: the Sanchi Stupas, the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu, the Ashokan Column in Vaishali, the Tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Rohtas and the Taj Mahal at Agra.

“The magnificent Building of the Patna High Court, designed by the renowned architect Mr. Munnings in neoclassical style, is based on the Palladian concept of a country house. It creates a grand impression with its vast proportions and subtle detailing”, he remarked.

The Main Building, on its completion, was formally made functional on February 3, 1916, with Sir Edward Chamier officiating as the first Chief Justice.

To meet the Court’s expanding needs, the new Centenary Building has been conceptualized on similar lines. Housing all modern amenities and eco-friendly systems, it shall serve the people with 43 Court Rooms, 57 Chambers, 2 Libraries, 6 Committee Rooms, a big Conference Room, and an underground parking facility for more than 100 vehicles.

Chief Justice Karol also acknowledged the esteemed guidance of the Chief Justice of India and expressed his gratitude for having travelled amid COVID to grace the occasion with his physical presence. The CJI’s humility, impartiality and courtesy make him a complete Judge, Chief Justice Karols said. He spoke on how the CJI is a voracious reader, having a keen interest in protecting and preserving art, culture, and heritage.

Chief Justice Karol also acknowledged the role of Dr. Justice DY Chandrachud as the Chairman of the E-Committee at the Supreme Court of India, in helping put in place systems to meet the challenges of COVID.

Chief Justice Karol addressed Ravishankar Prasad, as “one of us” since he practised law and is a designated Senior Advocate. He expressed his happiness on Prasad’s leading role in the “Digital India’” program. The impetus for digitizing the Courts given by him as a Minister for Law and Justice has shown rich dividends, said Chief Justice Karol.

Chief Justice Karol observed that the role of the Constitutional Courts in the country is collaborative in nature. At one level, they work with the Executive of the day to achieve National objectives and aspirations. On another level, it becomes adversarial in nature to check constitutional transgressions. However, a commonality in purpose is present, “to uphold the constitutional values and rule of law.”

“The State High courts’ responsibility is to engage with the culture, traditions, practices, and beliefs of the State they serve while keeping in mind the letter of the law and our founding document’s spirit and ideals”, Chief Justice Karol said.

The Bar was represented through the Advocate General; the Additional Solicitor General of India; the President and the Secretary of the Advocates Association; the President and the Secretary of the Lawyers Association; the President and the Secretary of the Bar Association and the the Chairman of the Bar Council of India.

Via Bar & Bench
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