Mumbai:  Affirming his government's commitment to working with judiciary for improving delivery of justice, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the Law Commission is looking at improvements required in the court procedures for a better criminal judicial system.

He also said an Inter Ministerial Group was examining what changes were needed in the Negotiable Instruments Act along with other measures to check increasing litigation arising out of cases of bouncing cheques.

"We have taken a number of initiatives to bring about improvements in the justice delivery system... A group under the Chairman of Law Commission is looking at improvements that are required in court procedure and processes for a better criminal judicial system," he said in his address at the concluding ceremony of sesquicentennial celebrations of the Bombay High Court.

National Mission for Justice Delivery

The Government launched National Mission for Justice Delivery in 2011 with the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears and enhancing accountability. A Constitution Amendment Bill for raising the age of retirement of Judges of High Courts is before the Parliament, Singh said.

Also, a comprehensive proposal has been formulated for establishment of an All India Judicial Service, Prime Minister told a distinguished gathering of legal luminaries including former and current judges of High Court and Supreme Court.

"The overall pendency of cases in various courts of the country has declined by more than six lakh over the period July to December 2011. The Bombay High Court and its subordinate Courts have contributed handsomely to this achievement, reducing their pendency by five lakh cases annually since 2010," Singh said.

'Executive, Judiciary, Legislature must work together'

Stressing that all three organs (Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature) of the government must work together to ensure social, economic and political justice for citizens, Singh said Judiciary had a direct role in this task -- that of upholding the rule of law and ensuring that people enjoyed fundamental rights like right to life and personal liberty and right to equality.

Noting that judicial institutions in the country faced the "enviable task" of delivering timely justice to millions of people at affordable cost, Singh acknowledged that rapid economic growth in the last two decades had made the task "even more complex, more specialised and more challenging."

"I believe that our Judiciary has acquitted itself with distinction in shouldering its onerous responsibilities," he said.

 "The Bombay High Court is and has been a spectacular bulwark of freedom in independent India. Its landmark decisions have contributed to a legal and jurisprudential architecture of fairness, freedom, social justice and human rights," the Prime Minister said.

He said its celebrated judgements in specialised branches of law such as intellectual property, cyber laws, securities and banking law, corporate laws and international commercial arbitration had vastly enriched the understanding of evolving legal regime in these areas.

The Bombay High Court, he said, had demonstrated time and again that the judicial process was "neither cold nor impersonal" and through creative and dynamic interpretations worked for the continuing relevance of laws to the realities of the present times.

Legal uncertainties

"While interpreting the Legislative will, it has attempted to fill the gaps in law and supplied omissions to correct legal uncertainties. That is not to say that there have been no dilemmas, no contradictions or no aberrations.

"That is inevitable because the blind and seemingly cold and impersonal statue of justice does not always sit easily with the supplicating and humble statue of mercy. But both are vital to this temple of justice and that is why both are prominently displayed in this (Bombay High Court) building", the Prime Minister said.

"The law is not only a code of commands. It is, in its relationship to society, the source of freedom, a methodology for redress of grievances, a source of good governance and, above all, an instrument of social and economic change," Singh said.

He said in moulding the law to subserve these causes, the Bombay High Court had not hesitated to cast aside old maps to charter new ground.

"And it has endeavored to do so consistent with the demands of stability and certainity and the need to preserve the sanctity of the constitutional charter that divides sovereign power of a free people into different organs of the Government," the Prime Minister noted.

Ever since Bombay High Court was established on August 18, 1862, it has been witness to history in the making, he said.

"Lokmanya Tilak's statement in Bombay High Court, now contained in a marble tablet outside the Central Court room from where he was tried, and the proceedings of the trial of Mahatma Gandhi before Judge Broomfield stand as two out of the many examples of an unrivaled legal and judicial heritage which continues to inspire succeeding generations of Indians".

Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Bhulabhai Desai, K M Munshi, Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, who were the heroes of the freedom movement, honed their skills in the practice of law in the Bombay High Court. Stalwarts of legal profession like Sir Jamshedji Kanga, H C Coyajee, M A Jinnah and Sir Dinshaw Mullah strode the halls of this building as legal geniuses of their age, he said.

Some of the finest legal minds including H M Seervai, M C Setalvad, C K Daphtary, Nani Palkhiwala and N P Engineer perfected their art in the Bombay High Court. Over the last 65 years, 22 judges of this Court have been elevated to the Apex Court and as many as eight of these have adorned the office of Chief Justice of India including one as the longest serving Chief Justice ever, the Prime Minister noted.

In the more recent past, two lady judges of the Supreme Court have been from this High Court. "That is truly a breathtaking set of statistics for any judicial institution and one to be proud of," he said.

(Agencies)

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