The Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud on Friday said everyone in the legal fraternity, including judges, had a role in demystifying and simplifying the legal process for citizens to make it more accessible.

He was delivering the inaugural address of the 19th Legal Services Authority Meet at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

"Filing an FIR becomes daunting because of economic and social barriers. Citizens more often than not require assistance of specialised professionals, lawyers and paralegal workers, to secure access to justice," he said.

The CJI said all of "us, not judges alone, have a role in demystifying and simplifying the legal process for the citizens to make more accessible to common citizens particularly to the marginalised communities".

He recalled two cases in which oversight at preliminary stages of a case resulted in undue delay in administration of justice.

"Few years ago, a milkman was convicted of adulterating milk in 1980. The milkman hired a lawyer to represent him before the SC (Supreme Court). However, the milkman from Uttar Pradesh had actually never met the lawyer as he was sourced through word of mouth," the CJI said. He said lawyers normally travel on weekends and come back with a pile of 'vakalat namas' (power of attorney) and briefs.

"When the lawyer failed to appear repeatedly, another lawyer from the legal services committee was appointed amicus curiae. It was after 40 years that the SC acquitted the milkman of the charge of adulterating milk," he said.

The CJI said this case shows the effectiveness of providing legal aid, especially in situations in which the litigants are unaware of the rights and entitlements.

Sharing details of another case, the Chief Justice of India said a few months ago, he heard a case in which nine charges under the Electricity Act were invoked against an accused.

"The accused pleaded guilty and he was sentenced to two years in each charge. The sessions judge forgot to mention that all sentences will run concurrently. He was sentenced to 18 years jail for electricity 'chori' (theft)," he said.

Three years later, he moved the high court against the sentence. The high court dismissed the petition under section 482 saying the conviction had attained finality, the CJI said.

"Eventually the case travelled to Supreme Court and we had to interfere. I am mentioning this not because we did something great but because there are numerous people who are unable to access their rights," he added.

The CJI also complimented NALSA for organizing Legal Services Authority meet in Srinagar as the venue for the 19th Legal Services Authority meet reflects the mainstreaming of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in the discourse on the country's development. He also said that the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is an exemplar of the nation's commitment to serve others.

"I must compliment NALSA for putting up this event in Srinagar. The importance of Srinagar goes beyond the pure symbolism as the choice of the venue. To my mind, the choice of the venue for this significant meeting of the Indian judiciary, reflects the mainstreaming of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in the discourse on development in India," CJI Chandrachud said.

"Our minds and hearts are together when we exist to serve each other," Chandrachud said in his opening remarks at the meet at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC). This event has brought together a wealth of learning and experience of the Indian judiciary, he added. The CJI said in many ways the life of a judge is a life of isolation.

"Part of the reason for that isolation is our own desire to preserve our own independence. I am myself sometimes being accused of being a recluse but I do believe from my own experience that travel is an essential ingredient of opening up of minds. As judges, we all know that we are lauded and honoured. Mercifully, we are not worshipped," he said.

"It is when you face the majesty of nature as I have faced during my travels in Ladakh and as I have faced in the last two or three days I have been in Jammu and Kashmir that you realise that human existence is but a speck before the enormity of the nature but yet it is the existence with a purpose," the CJI said and added that the "more you dwell on the smallness of our existence, the more you are led to believe the purpose behind that existence".

Minutes after the CJI finished his speech, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted that she welcomes the CJI to Kashmir.

"Article 370 - a constitutional commitment of this nation to the people of J&K was illegally revoked. This despite earlier SC rulings against its abrogation. Its been four years yet the matter is still pending before the honorable court," she said.

"Thousands of our youngsters are languishing behind bars without recourse to a trial. The process itself has become the punishment," the PDP chief tweeted. Mehbooba said Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India out of choice and not compulsion.

"Then why is it being deprived of basic fundamental rights and guarantees given by the Constitution itself? I earnestly hope your presence throws light upon these pressing issues," she added.

With PTI Inputs