Courts Update Laws must be clear and accessible, There cannot be...

Laws must be clear and accessible, There cannot be secret laws-CJI NV Ramana


New Delhi, Jul 1(ILNS)The ‘laws must be clear and accessible’. This is the fundamental point that when laws are expected to be obeyed, the people at least ought to know what the laws are. There cannot therefore be secretive laws, as laws are for the society. Another implication of this principle is that they should be worded in simple, unambiguous language, Chief Justice NV Ramana said.

Speaking at the 17th Justice PD Desai Memorial Lecture, on Wednesday, on ‘ Rule of Law’, Chief Justice NV Ramana said, Now the entire world is facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of Covid-19. At this juncture, we necessarily have to pause and ask ourselves as to what extent we have used the Rule of Law to ensure protection to, and, welfare of all of our people, the CJI said.

This pandemic might yet be a mere curtain raiser to much larger crises in the decades to come. Surely we must at least begin the process of analyzing what we did right and where we went wrong , The CJI said.The oath we took, to perform our duties ‘without fear or favor, affection or ill-will’, applies equally to governmental and non-governmental entities.

Talking about the Legal positivism, the CJI said, many conceptions of Rule of Law have emerged. From Dicey to Lord Bingham, different formulations of principles informing the concept of rule of law have been made.

The principle relates to the idea of “equality before the law”. Laws are to be applied on an equal basis in a non-arbitrary fashion. This is, of course, an important fundamental right promised under the Indian Constitution. An important aspect of “equality before law” is having equal “access to justice”.

I must emphasize that, in a democratic country like ours, access to justice forms the bedrock of the “Rule of Law”, the CJI said, However, this guarantee of equal justice will be rendered meaningless if the vulnerable sections are unable to enjoy their rights because of their poverty or illiteracy or any other kind of weakness.

In India, the Legal Aid Authority is estimated to serve more than 70% of the population who are entitled for free legal aid, making the Indian Legal Aid system one of the largest in the world.

Our struggle for independence, marked our journey towards establishment of a state defined by the “Rule of Law”. The move from a colonial past to the present required a shift from the colonial idea of laws imposed by foreign rulers for their benefit, to laws given by our people to govern themselves, laws which are not merely commands but are also
embodied by a sense of justice. There was a need to give guarantee for the laws to be framed with human face for the benefit of the masses. A framework was needed to ensure this. The framework that which forms the binding link between law and justice in this country. That is what “We the people” gave to ourselves in the form of the Constitution.

The CJI said, when the framers set out to draft the Constitution, the newborn country was faced with enormous challenges such as illiteracy, poverty, immense religious, ethnic, linguistic, and social diversity. The framers envisaged a document which not only took care of the prevailing conditions but would also continue and be relevant for all times to come.

The Constitution, therefore, conceived as a living document whose contents evolve over the years, as the Courts deal with new situations and question and interpret the Constitution in the light of the same.

The Constitution embodies within itself the concept of Rule of Law and the same can be witnessed from our Preamble, the Fundamental Rights, the Directive Principles of State Policy, the Separation of Powers, etc. By situating the concept of Rule of Law at the confluence of three important values – human dignity, democracy and justice, our founding fathers showed the path for the rest of the world too.

The issue of ‘gender equality’ is very important. It not only enables women to advocate for their rights and needs in society, but it also increases their visibility in the legal reform process and allows their participation in it.

The Bias and prejudice necessarily lead to injustice, particularly when it relates to the minorities. Consequently, the application of the principles of Rule of Law in respect of vulnerable sections has to necessarily be more inclusive of their social conditions that hinder their progress. The members of society have the “right to participate in the creation and refinement of laws” that regulate their behaviors. The idea that people are the ultimate sovereign is also to be found in notions of human dignity and autonomy. A public discourse, that is both reasoned and reasonable, is to be seen as an inherent aspect of human dignity and hence essential to a properly functioning democracy, Justice Ramana said. /ILNS/SNG


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