We just witnessed the unprecedented Press Conference addressed by the 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court (SC), mounting a scathing attack against the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Misra. Subsequently, we also came to know of the meeting that Mr. D. Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI) had with the senior-most of the 4 Judges, viz., Justice Chelameshwar.
SC and the other Courts have done precious little to address the issue of mounting cases in the Indian courts, with corruption to boot.
The electronic media is abuzz with interviews of retired judges, legal luminaries, politicians et al. All possible shades of opinion are being expressed. Some say the 4 judges were left with no option and so they were justified in holding their Presser. Some say, even if they had a case and had no option, Presser is surely wrong; there were several other alternatives. Some say, all those involved are honorable judges, and they will find a way out. Some say the Attorney General can help them resolve it. Some say, the Government, especially the Law Minister, should help them resolve it, while some others say the Government should stay away from it.
I’m not competent to comment on this, but I have a much larger point to make.
We run the nation by ‘the rule of law’. Quite often, the rule of law won’t render fair justice, but we’ve been told to accept whatever is rendered in the name of justice. A lowly Government worker stealing Rs.10,000 and a politician stealing Rs.50,000 crores (stealing such amounts is quite common in India) will be seen almost in the same light by the rule of law. The politician may ultimately be charged for theft of a ‘mere’ Rs.1 crore, and may not only escape with just 3.5 years in jail but will also get to keep the rest of the Rs.49,999 crores for his progenies for generations. And the worst part is, only 1 in 1000 such high profile politicians may be caught; the others will escape.
Our judicial system has convinced us that we have to accept this letter of law. That is, no matter what everyone may believe to be true, we have to prove without an iota of doubt in a court through a long-winding legal system that the accused is indeed guilty, and once we do, we have a reformative punishment system, not retributive, that will treat them with kid gloves. We are after all the world’s largest democracy and we have to be kind to everyone, esp criminals.
Regardless of whether the charges by the 4 judges against the CJI are true or not (which have not even been made, leave along proven), how are they justified in holding the Presser? They say, they have exhausted all options before calling for the Presser.
Even assuming the 4 judges have a strong cause, I have a few questions:
- The judges are appointed individually, not collectively. Can some judges get together opposing the CJI? Won’t it amount to unionisation? What will happen if this were replicated by judges in the HCs, and lower courts, exactly citing similar reasons?
- Is this the first time in the history of SC that the CJI does what the 4 judges allege? I’m sure this would have happened several times. If so, what is the enormous damage that would have befallen the SC (that has not happened in the past) if the 4 senior judges had not revolted? There have been allegations of even corruption of Himalayan proportions in the judiciary, and these judges have not been so much outraged by such corruption.
- Since it is an established procedure that the CJI would decide on certain matters like work allocation, isn’t it only fair that the judges accept the decisions of the CJI, right or wrong, even assuming he may not have followed proper procedures, because their own system doesn’t ensure the same? If they can question the CJI’s prerogative, where will it stop?
- Can any judge demand that certain specific cases be placed before them? If they accuse the CJI of selective allocation of work, can’t these judges be accused selective demand of work? Viewed in the backdrop of this Presser, how can one fault the CJI if he believed that he should not place certain specific sensitive cases before certain judges because these judges have no open mind in respect of the cases?
- How does Justice Chelameshwar justify his invitation to D. Raja of CPI to his home immediately after the Presser? Why should people believe in his impartiality after this incident?
- Many (including the author) believe that rejecting NJAC itself was a huge blunder by the judiciary; they just wanted it to be a cosy club of in-breeders. If they stand by the Collegium system, how do they justify the fact that a person like the current CJI could become the CJI through their own system, who they consider inappropriate? And how do they reckon the high level of corruption which they believe that exists in the judiciary, despite the Collegium system?
- If these judges say MoP not being finalised by the Government is the reason for delays, they may not be fully true; the Government has given statistics in the past on how the maximum number of appointments in history to SC and HC were done in 2017.
- SC and the other Courts have done precious little to address the issue of mounting cases in the Indian courts, with corruption to boot. They can’t think beyond setting up more Courts and appointing more judges, which cost a lot of money. The legal system is one of the least reformed since independence. Why can’t they come up with ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing system, at almost no additional cost, which is well within their hands? (Suggestions to accomplish this are in the links below.)
- How To Improve The Quality And Speed Of Justice Delivery System? A Retired Judge Provides Solution – Nov 13,2017, PGurus.com
- 2 G Verdict: The Moment For Judicial Reforms – Dec 24,2017, PGurus.com
- How Justice Delivery System Can Be Improved 1000% At No Extra Cost – Dec 15,2017, PGurus.com
- Judicial Reforms – Feb 15,2017, PGurus.com
If these judges had risen in revolt demanding that the CJI do something to deliver quality justice or speedy justice, the entire nation would have stood behind them.
But the issues they have raised are micro and transient in nature (assuming they are right), compared to the issues the average Indian is concerned about viz quality and speed of justice delivery system. So, have these 4 judges failed to exercise a sense of proportion, and barked up the wrong tree?
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.