A senior advocate arguing in favour of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Wednesday told the Supreme Court that its judges should walk in the court corridors wearing a burqa to get a sense of increasing frustration among lawyers over bad appointments and the deteriorating justice delivery system.
“My Lords should wear a burqa and roam in the court corridors to hear the way lawyers talk about the judges of this court. You will get first-hand account of the rotting justice delivery system. The kind of lawyers who are being appointed as judges is a disgrace,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave, arguing for the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), told a Constitution Bench led by Justice J S Khehar.
Dave, who is also president of the SCBA, said the top court has used the Collegium’s power to appoint judges as a “giant”, and has turned its duty to protect human rights into a “sham”.
“Be it the 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the 2002 Gujarat riots, none of these cases have rendered justice, and if you were to see how wrong appointments have been made, you would know the reason. It is a shame how every court is going an extra mile to protect politicians and film stars, and ordinary citizens are deprived of justice,” said Dave.
“Acting chief justice of a high court decides to sit in a single bench, gets the roster for criminal cases, has the case transferred to his bench from another bench and quashes the FIR only because the person involved happens to be a top film star. Which driver gets bail within hours of conviction unless he happens to be a top film star? Which person will get bail by this court on the first day of the bail plea and without a notice to the other side if it is not a big politician? It is a shame,” he added.
Dave also claimed that while every accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and the Gujarat riots case, including life term convict Maya Kodnani, had got bail from the apex court, Teesta Setalvad, who fought for the riot victims, had to run from pillar to post for protection from arrest.
The bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel, retorted that it was not the system, but some individuals who may have been in the wrong. It also said that some of the judges being criticised had been lawyers earlier.
Dave replied, “The institution does not have a system to correct it. I am very sorry to say it but you don’t listen to anyone, my lord… You have used your powers as a giant. Even the Parliament cannot correct it. The majority of the appointments are impeccable but it is the minority that is giving this institution a bad name and you don’t entertain even the smallest of suggestions.”
“Once they are appointed as judges, there is no scrutiny and some of them have brought down the reputation of constitutional posts. Oath as a judge has become a joke and I doubt many of them even remember it anymore,” he added.
Asking the judges to introspect, Dave said it had been “very difficult to digest” the way the Collegium had been functioning, and said the NJAC would be a perfectly constitutional mechanism to appoint judges in the higher judiciary.
The Bench said, “You talk about a few judges but you don’t talk about hundreds of others who work tirelessly day in and day out for this system. You crush them under the weight of others.”
Although he stood with it to defend the NJAC, Dave also hit out at the government, saying that it wanted to appoint “pliable and weak judges” since they could be easily manipulated.
Asking Dave to suggest ways to remedy the situation, the Bench said it was in favour of improving the existing system. “If we quash the NJAC, the new system may be somewhere in between the old system (Collegium) and the NJAC. Give us suggestions on how to do it,” it said. The arguments in the case will continue on Thursday.