President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday expressed concern over disruptions in Parliamentary proceedings as also frequent adjournment of cases in courts to the disadvantage of poor litigants.

He also said that justice in political arena is not just free and fair elections and the exercise of universal adult franchisee, but it also calls for improving the transparency in “campaign finance”, which the government is trying to do.

Joint effort

Addressing the inaugural function of ‘Constitution Day Celebrations’ held here, President Kovind said the Constitution formalised the segregation of powers between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature and has given all three pillars the legitimate rules and responsibilities to uphold the Constitution for realising its hopes and expectations. “The duty of safeguarding and strengthening the Constitution is a shared enterprise among all three institutions, in partnership with the people of India,” he said.

Constitution Day, also known as Samvidhan Divas, is celebrated on November 26. The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949. It came into effect on January 26, 1950.

The President expressed his displeasure over the frequent disruption of proceedings in Parliament as also the miseries of poor litigants who have to suffer due to the adjournment of cases in courts despite the judiciary trying its best to find a solution to it.

“Disruptions in parliamentary proceedings are an unfortunate occurrence. Some have suggested that these too be seen as encroachment on the citizen’s understanding of justice,” he said. “Similarly, when the judiciary tries to find solutions to frequent adjournments, simply to delay cases and inconvenience the less-well-off litigant, it enhances the quality of justice,” the President said.

‘Suprema lex’

Adoption of the Constitution was a “milestone” in India’s democratic journey, he said, adding that perhaps the “most moving word” in the Constitution is justice. “Justice is a single word. Justice is a complex and liberating expression. And justice is both the means and the goal of our constitutional and nation-building process. In the narrow sense of our legal system, justice is served when right and wrong are adjudicated upon in a courtroom,” he said.

“And more so when justice is accessible, affordable and quickly available to all citizens, irrespective of background. But justice must also be seen in a wider context — in terms of society’s evolution and its changing beliefs, lifestyles and technologies,” he said, adding that “the Constitution is nobody’s preserve — and it is everybody’s preserve.”

President Kovind said that the Constitution is the modern scripture of independent India. “To use a Latin expression, it is our ‘suprema lex’ (a Latin legal maxim that means welfare of the people shall be the supreme law). However, it is more than just a collection of articles and clauses. For us Indians, it is an inspirational and living document, an ideal of the society we are and the even better society we are striving to be,” he said.

‘Ultimate custodians’

The President said people were the “ultimate custodians” of the Constitution. “The Constitution empowers the citizen, but the citizen too empowers the Constitution — by following it, by adhering to it, by protecting it and by persevering to make it more meaningful with words and deeds,” he said.

“Political justice implies the equal participation of all adults in the political process and the just formulation and implementation of laws. Economic justice implies the ultimate eradication of poverty, equal opportunities to earn a livelihood and fair wages,” he said, adding, “As such the expansion of economic, entrepreneurship and job opportunities are among examples of economic justice.”

Kovind said it is a “paradox” that the citizens are sometimes not sufficiently informed about what the Constitution means. “Let the 70th year (November 26, 2019) of its adoption be dedicated to enhancing awareness about the Constitution,” he said.

He referred to technology and said that it is an “enhancer of justice as well as a challenge.” Innovations in agricultural technology that began with the green revolution have made India self-sufficient in food and have rolled back hunger, he said, adding, “New vaccines and life-saving drugs have eradicated diseases and improved life expectancy. The telecom surge has reduced distances and allowed businesses to become more efficient. And the Internet has made knowledge democratic and accessible. Information is no longer a privilege, it is a commodity.”

Kovind further said that innovation has also worked for the benefit of disadvantaged sections of society. “A case in point is India’s experience with technology-enabled, Aadhar-linked direct benefit transfers. These have plugged corruption, leakages and exclusion from India’s welfare programmes.”

Social justice, he said, remains a touchstone of nation building and it is about providing equal opportunities. “In India, the idea of social justice too has expanded to encompass modern civic parameters — such as clean air, less polluted cities and towns, rivers and water bodies, sanitary and hygienic living conditions, and green and eco-friendly growth and development,” he said. “If a child suffers from asthma due to air pollution, I would consider that a gap in providing social justice,” he said.