New Delhi, Nov 20 (PTI) The Constitution has given political equality to the citizens but the society has not yet achieved social and economic justice which is still a "work in progress", Delhi High Court Acting Chief Justice Manmohan said on Monday.
Justice Manmohan said there are certain deficiencies in the legal system as rich people get good legal aid whereas the poor fail to afford it.
Delivering the presidential address at the culmination ceremony of the project ‘Aaroh-Vidhik Sewa Ke Badte Kadam’ organised by Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA), he said there is a need to ensure that legal aid schemes are working properly at the grassroots level and the in-charges should go to the ground level to meet people.
The event was organised to commemorate the National Legal Services Day.
Justice Manmohan agreed with the issue of inequality raised by Delhi High Court’s Justice Suresh Kumar Kait.
“Justice Kait has raised a very important issue and many experts believe that the issue which he has flagged deals with a fundamental right that the Constitution gave us and implemented on day one -- political equality -- by giving everyone the same right to vote but the social and economic justice is yet a work in progress. It has not been achieved fully,” he said.
Justice Kait said everyone talks about equality and justice but when it comes to sharing money with someone, such as giving a share in the property to a family member, then “we are very conservative in that sense”.
“This High Court was established in 1966 and we all talk about justice and equality and that is for all. After independence, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar presented the Hindu Code Bill for the rights of women, which failed," he said.
“In 1955-56, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act came which bifurcated the Hindu Code Bill into three so ultimately he was the crusader for the rights of women that came thereafter,” he said.
Justice Kait added that in 2005, women got their due rights in ancestral property.
He pointed out that till 2008, not a single judicial officer or lawyer from the bar belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe or Backward Class communities was elevated as a judge of the Delhi High Court.
“That does not mean that the officers were not there… For the first time in history, I was elevated from the categories above. To date, it is only me. For backward classes, only one judge is there. This is not justice and equality; we have to change our mindset,” Justice Kait said.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher of the Delhi High Court also advised the DSLSA member secretary to conduct an audit of schemes to understand how they are working. He also advised his colleagues and other judges to approach their matters in a fashion where they are trying to reach the weakest of society.
“Why is our criminal system suffering? Because a certain class of people gets convicted regularly and their percentage is high whereas the other class seems to escape the rigour of the law," Justice Shakdher said.
“Why is it that when you have to grant bail or furlough, the standards are tougher for the people who do not have the necessary wherewithal? We keep saying at every level that bail is a rule and denial of bail is an exception but somehow this sentiment has not percolated,” he said.
Justice Shakdher said the DSLSA should prioritise the safety and justice of women and children. He said victims of acid attack or sexual assault should get their due justice and there is an urgent need to handle the menace of drug abuse which is spreading across classes.
added that victims who are women or children or were subjected to acid attack or sexual assault should get their due justice and there is an urgent need to handle the menace of drug abuse which is spreading across classes.
“It (drug abuse) is impacting children of members of the audience who are going to so-called public schools, it is available just outside the schools in various forms. So unless we handle this, our next generation is going to be spoiled. I am not only talking about Delhi but it is spreading on a national level. It is a huge problem. Let Delhi be the first one to take up this issue,” he said.
Justice Manmohan said the DSLSA’s project is a shining testament to the principles of justice, equality and access to legal services.
He said legal service encompasses a wide range of activities and interventions which are aimed at ensuring access to justice for every individual.
“At the heart of legal services lies the commitment to protect and uphold human rights to ensure fairness and to provide safeguard against injustice. It is not limited to courtroom representation but extends a wide spectrum of activities that empower individuals to understand and assert their rights as guaranteed by the law,” he said.
Besides, DSLSA member secretary Mukesh Kumar Gupta and special secretary Naveen Gupta also addressed attendees of the event. PTI SKV RPA