Senior Supreme Court Judge Justice N V Ramana Saturday said that judges are being “construed as soft targets for criticism” because of their self-restraint and are “becoming victims of juicy gossip”.
Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, too, held out a note of caution saying that the independence of judiciary is not limited to independence from the executive but “takes within its sweep independence from many other pressures and prejudices”.
They were speaking at the launch of ‘Judiciary, Judges and the Administration of Justice’ (published by Thomson Reuters) written by former Supreme Court judge Justice R Banumathi.
“Judges have to balance their social life in order to be independent. It is completely upon the judge to maintain such self-imposed restrictions. As judges are self-restrained from speaking out in their own defence, they are now being construed as soft targets for criticism. This issue is further complicated by the proliferation of social media and technology, wherein judges are becoming victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social-media posts”, said Justice Ramana in his keynote address.
Justice Ramana is the second most senior judge in the apex court.
He said his own experience is that life of a judge is not a bed of roses and added that “judgeship in the present day requires sacrifices unparalleled in any other profession, and the same require to be made as the country’s future is dependent on strong, independent judges”.
The CJI said that the biggest challenge for judges and judiciary “is to ensure that our nation inches towards the goals set in the Constitution” and that “an independent judiciary is an essential sine qua non to achieve” this.
“The Constitution guarantees rights, acknowledges past inequalities, accommodates diversity, prescribes functions, and grants and limits state’s (executive, legislature and Judiciary) powers. So, one way would be to merely see the Constitution as a list of what can and cannot be done, by instrumentalities created under the Constitution. Another way would be to see it as the voice of the people, a list of their expectations – an aspirationalview, which includes higher values, like dignity, liberty, rule of law, etc., reflected especially in the silences in the Constitution”, CJI Bobde said.
The CJI said the judiciary has been able to play a “defining role in the public life” due to the public trust in it and added: “I acknowledge that there remain areas of concerns in the working of the institution”.
“That is natural,” he said, “especially in an institution that attempts to balance, day in and day out, the firmness of law against the vagaries of human nature”.
He added “however we must also remember that neither inadequacy nor aberrations define a system, nor are hasty solutions a sensible way forward”.
Underlining that judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand, he said: “If the public is to give profound respect to the Judges, the Judges should by their conduct maintain dignified conduct and aloofness”.
Justice Indu Malhotra drew attention to the chapter on judicial ethics and said that Justice Banumathi had drawn on her experience as a district judge and her elevation.
Justice D Y Chandrachud said the book was not a post-retirement project but work on it had begun earlier. He added that it was remarkable for a judge to author a book while having to work through hundreds of SLPs.
Justice Banumathi said her book highlights the essential facets of judgeship and she wished and hoped that members of the judicial system read it and contribute towards enhancing the institution.
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