Access to justice now depends on access to technology: CJI Bobde

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New Delhi, Apr 23 (PTI) Outgoing Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde, credited with ensuring Supreme Court's quick transition to technology during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, referred to new kind of 'equality and inequality' in virtual hearings, saying now 'access to justice depends on access to technology'.

In his farewell address at the virtual function organised by Supreme Court Bar Association, the 47th CJI said the performance of India's top court was 'among the best' in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic as it was not closed even for a day due to the deadly virus. He said the pandemic required the Supreme Court to learn new things about communications, and it was decided that the video conferencing was the way forward.

“We have got used to it and it is here to stay in certain cases. I have flagged certain intractable problems of virtual hearing and one of them is the new kind of equality, inequality which is created. “I don't wish to dwell much on it, except to say that equality, inequality that already existed has been augmented by the fact that VCs have become technology dependent and your access to justice depends on your access to technology,” he said.

Addressing the young lawyers, who are disheartened by the evident events of the pandemic, Justice Bobde said, “Don't lose hope. Carry on. Things will change.” He pointed out that the circumstances are such that we can acquire all the devices and technologies necessary. Talking about the importance of the artificial intelligence (AI), Justice Bobde said: “If we won't become familiar with the AI, we will find ourselves at a great disadvantage. It is with that spirit that AI has been resorted to.

“This is warning i would like to issue in adoption of artificial intelligence as I think its futile to ignore it,” he said, adding that “if we don't adopt it we will be at great disadvantage.” Speaking on the occasion, Attorney General K K Venugopal batted for the fixed tenure of CJIs for three to four years, saying by the time people get to know the head of the judiciary, he 'disappears'.

“I had said that it is a very sad day that even before we spent enough time with a CJI there is a new CJI. That is why I have been suggesting that CJI should be there for 3 to 4 years,' he said.

“Father of Justice D Y Chandrachud (also a judge in the Supreme Court currently) served for seven years as CJI,' he said, adding that increasing the tenure for the CJI is in the hands of the collegium'.

Senior advocate and SCBA President Vikas Singh also spoke at the occasion.

Earlier during the day, Justice Bobde said that he was leaving the Supreme Court with happiness, goodwill and very fond memories and the satisfaction of having done his best.

Justice Bobde, who decided several key cases during his tenure, including the historic Ayodhya verdict, was administered oath as the 47th CJI in November 2019 and is retiring today. PTI UK SJK SA