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July 2020
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Columns
Honourable Judges look inwardly
 
By K. Gopalakrishnan


“What is it that makes us trust our Judges? Their independence in office and manner of appointment.”_Judge John Marshall

One is reminded about the sayings of Judge John Marshall when we look at the state of the Indian judiciary, particularly in the context of four senior judges of the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, questioned the unilateral and biased decisions of the Chief Justice of India, Deepak Mishra, in the allocation of important cases to junior judges.

Details of the press conference and the issues raised by the four judges are too recent to repeat. Suffice to say that there is a serious situation in the highest court of the land that even four senior judges feel that their grievances or suggestions are not attended to.

The details of the various issues have not been revealed except that in the case of petitions for probe into the death of CBI judge Loya to a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Santana Gouder. It was felt that this case should have been allocated to any one of the four senior judges, other than the CJI. Otherwise no instances were told the Media. One does not know the side of Chief Justice who has preferred not to react to the statement of his senior colleagues.

But it is clear that there need to be immediate remedial measures on various issues relating to the functioning of the Supreme Court affecting the delivery of Justice. Though the Centre publicly took the position that the matter is left to the judges to resolve there was an attempt to step in at the highest level.

Reports indicated that the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India tried to meet the Chief Justice of India at his residence. But CJI declined to meet which is a positive sign. However the Attorney General of India, Office bearers of Bar Council of India and Supreme Court Bar Association have stepped in to resolve the issues raised by the four senior judges. Hopefully their efforts may succeed and the highest Court would function normally from Monday.

The issues are nothing new. For some time there have been problems within the Court and with the Government of India. The appointment of judges is an unresolved issue in which the Supreme Court and the Centre have differing views. This is no small matter.

The Government of India should take initiative and in consultation with national political party leaders and the Collegium work out a procedure which will enable appointment of learned, independent and morally upright judges without any political or other influences with merit as the sole criteria. Fortunately we have many eminent men in the legal profession.

The Government of India appears to be not taking the issue seriously and taking initiatives for solution. If some initiatives are taken behind the scene it is not known to the public. Meanwhile vacancies are increasing in various courts and the cases are piling up too.

After all justice delayed is justice denied. Functioning of the judiciary as enshrined in the Constitution is definitely more important than ban on cow slaughter, building of Ram temple at Ayodhya and censoring of films on which undue attention is extended.

The immediate step is to resolve the issues relating the functioning of the highest court in the country. Even the one instance which triggered the present crisis, death of Judge Loya case, show that the matter is not just administrative or procedural but far beyond and disturbing in nature. Patch work suggestions may provide temporary relief but what is needed is a solution which will ensure smooth functioning of the court upholding the values the highest court stands for.

Such a solution can be worked only if the top judges look inwardly. For that Government need not intervene. Political parties should be kept at a distance. Indeed a lot can be achieved if the learned and experienced judges at the top choose to approach the problem with determination to find a solution.

A solution can be found if the judges chose to uphold the conventions, precedents and principles enshrined in the Constitution and make efforts to resolve the issues. There is no denial that the judges need to function independently and deliver justice unmindful of the consequences.

That is what is expected of them. Though the chief justice is master of roaster he cannot ignore the wealth of knowledge and experience of senior judges. Senior judges on their part should respect the position of the Chief Justice though they are all equals.

After all Chief Justice has to perform the administrative duties and management of various other issues in which he has to take decisions. Also everyone should remember that judiciary is one of the important pillars of Indian constitution and the trust and respect it attracts should not be shaken by any act, however laudable, lofty and well thought it may be.

Differences at the top in the Supreme Court did shock the whole nation. It did raise questions in the minds of many about the delivery of justice in cases where some high and mighty are involved. Also the concern about inability of top most judges to work together and function as per the provisions of the constitution to deliver justice and uphold rule of law.

The judges have to look inwards and take whatever steps are needed and the top most court in the country should function effectively. In this task the responsibility is entirely that of the judges. Other pillars – the executive, the judiciary and the media – cannot do much.

The issues raised by some judges can be resolved within judiciary itself. After all we have some eminent minds on law and justice in the highest court. Even those raised some issues are eminent jurists. Chief Justice took a responsible position and did not choose to reply to issues raised in public, which could have made matters far more serious.

He has also rejected the move made by the Centre. By doing so he has created an atmosphere for dialogue. Similarly there are many eminent lawyers in the Bar Council of India and Supreme Court Bar Association.

Attorney General, K.K. Venugopal is an eminent lawyer with decades of experience , have taken up many important constitutional issues and known for his integrity and upright conduct. All of them have expressed their willingness to work for solution. That is best way to resolve the issues raised by four senior judges.

Look within and find a solution.


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