Are 5-star activists driving courts… look within: PM Modi to judges

Judges are chosen for divine work; they do what God has entrusted them with, says PM Modi.

By: Express Web Desk Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: April 6, 2015 9:55 am
Narendra Modi, H L dattu, Modi judges meet Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at joint conference of chief ministers of states and chief Justices of the High Courts in New Delhi on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Calling upon the judiciary to have an internal mechanism for self-assessment and introspection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and other judges to reflect if “five-star activists” and “perception” were driving the judiciary today.

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Addressing a joint conference of chief justices and chief ministers from across the country in New Delhi, Modi said it was time the judiciary evolved an internal mechanism of self-assessment, since judges were “not as lucky as politicians”, who are under “constant scrutiny”.

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The PM’s statements come at a time when the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) is expected to replace the collegium system of appointing judges, giving a greater say to the executive in the process.

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Asking judiciary to introspect whether “five-star activists” were driving it, Modi said, “It is never too difficult to deliver justice within the boundaries of the law and Constitution. But it is very difficult to find the truth between perception and reality. It must be pondered over whether five-star activists are driving the judiciary today… if havoc is created to drive the judiciary. It has become difficult to deliver justice in an atmosphere of perception.”

 

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi (L,) Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at joint conference of chief ministers of states and chief Justices of the High Courts in New Delhi on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi) Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi (L,) Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a joint conference of chief ministers of states and chief Justices of the High Courts in New Delhi on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

The PM’s statements come at a time when the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) is expected to replace the collegium system of appointing judges, giving a greater say to the executive in the process.

Asking judiciary to introspect whether “five-star activists” were driving it, Modi said, “It is never too difficult to deliver justice within the boundaries of the law and Constitution. But it is very difficult to find the truth between perception and reality. It must be pondered over whether five-star activists are driving the judiciary today… if havoc is created to drive the judiciary. It has become difficult to deliver justice in an atmosphere of perception.”

A judge is not completely insular today, the PM said. “A judge is worried over what is happening outside and thinks if a judgment should be delivered one way or the other. It is imperative to strengthen the hands of the judiciary. Be it people in the government or in the media or the issue of bail of five-star activists, we will cause trouble to ourselves if we don’t help strengthen the judiciary.”

Modi gave the example of an incident where, he said, a high court had to face severe electricity cuts perhaps because a “five-star activist” had got a restraint order from a court against erecting an electric pole.

Seeking in-built checks, Modi noted that the judiciary was considered “divine” and next only to God. “If we as a government make mistakes, there is a forum for correction and that is you (judiciary). But if you commit mistakes, nothing will survive… It is time to evolve an in-built mechanism for self-assessment and introspection. Let a dynamic mechanism be developed without any interference of the government or any politician. If we don’t evolve such a system, the country will suffer in a big way in case the faith people have in this institution is shaken,” he said.

Admitting that setting up such a system was a “difficult task”, the PM stressed again that “there is always a possibility of downfall if institutional networks are not made strong, irrespective of individuals being above suspicion”.

While criticism of the judiciary was seldom heard from outside, Modi went on to point out, politicians were under constant vigil even though they had themselves framed laws to check their actions.

“I consider myself fortunate that I am from a community that is under constant scrutiny. Although my community has often been smeared, the leaders who governed this country have created a large number of institutions to bind us down. The Election Commission’s independence binds us but we did create it. RTI also binds us. Not only this, we are also going to have Lokpal and it would bind us, but we still want it,” he said.

Modi also regretted the dismal performance of tribunals, numbering more than a hundred and headed usually by retired judges of the higher judiciary, asking if this didn’t call for a review. Asking judges to examine their efficacy, the PM told them to decide whether so many tribunals were required.

“It is imperative to review their performance and let nobody take any adversarial position on it. Let us all work in tandem. If we can do this well, we can administer the justice delivery system better.”

Maintaining that law is supreme, the PM also emphasised on the need to have better drafts for legislations, with minimum grey areas, so that courts do not nullify decisions by authorities in future interpretation of statutes. He expressed his commitment to removal of obsolete laws.

Modi also asserted the need to prepare for emerging areas of litigation such as maritime law and cyber crime, and said Lok Adalats were an effective way of dispensing justice and should be strengthened further. He also stressed the importance of family courts.

Asking all stakeholders to strive for strengthening the judiciary, Modi promised that his government would ensure it faced no financial crunch as regards infrastructural needs. Modi also said that under the Digital India programme, technology should be deployed to bring about a qualitative change in the judiciary.