August 28, 2021 5:05:43 am
Maintaining the “credibility of our judiciary” is the biggest challenge before judges, Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Abhay Sreenivas Oka said at a farewell ceremony held for him on Friday.
Justice Oka has been elevated to the Supreme Court along with fellow Karnataka HC judge, Justice B V Nagarathna.
“A judge must not go out of the way to please anyone but should go out of the way to see that justice is done at any cost,” said Justice Oka, whose two-year term as CJ provided a rejuvenation for public-spirited litigation and court administration in Karnataka.
“I firmly believe it is the duty of all those associated with the judiciary to do everything to ensure that faith of the common man in the judiciary is not shaken. In fact, maintaining the credibility of our judiciary system is the biggest challenge for all of us,” he said.
Justice Nagarathna, who is in line to be the first woman Chief Justice of India, also got her farewell at the High Court. She said that she believes recommendation for her elevation to the apex court was a recognition of her “merit, hard work and rectitude”.
She said: “Our country India, or Bharat, is not just a piece in history or geography. It is a nation of over a billion people with over a billion dreams. I have often wondered what binds us together despite the innumerable diversities. It is my firm conviction that one of the binding factors is the Indian Constitution — a legal system committed to rule of law and an organised hierarchy of courts with a Supreme Court at the apex.”
At the event, Chief Justice Oka, who steered Karnataka High Court from being a largely paper-based institution to a fully electronic one through the Covid-19 pandemic, said: “I always like to be strict and disciplined in court. Therefore, knowingly or unknowingly I must have hurt many. On this occasion I assure you that it was completely unintentional. It might be due to my over-enthusiasm to do justice within my limitations.”
“As a Chief Justice, I had to take hard and tough decisions,” he said. “The only objective was to ensure that litigants do not suffer, and junior members of the Bar should not suffer.”
He said: “After working for nearly 18 years as a judge, I have realised that the job of a judge is never easy. By the very nature of the job, half the people in a courtroom become unhappy. If a judge is strict and disciplined, he or she has the potential to make more than half the people unhappy. But I always believe that a judge should be strict without being harsh, and firm without being adamant.”
Justice Oka said that although the pandemic stalled efforts to improve the numbers so far as pending cases are concerned, the period was a blessing in disguise for adoption of technology by courts. “Now the use of technology has come to stay. In fact, the time has come to use more and more technology in our day-to-day functioning,” he said.
“We have made some efforts to improve listing of cases. Certain categories of cases are being automatically listed — bail petitions, Section 482 cases, Public Interest Litigation, and writ appeals are being automatically listed on the third, fourth and seventh days of filing. The concept is to reduce manual intervention in the matter of listing to the minimum,” Justice Oka said.
“On May 24, 2019, when I received a grand welcome, I had said that our priority will be the district and trial courts. I have always felt that the judiciary in Karnataka has the potential to make all courts arrears-free. We took several steps on this behalf by setting out timelines for disposal of old cases,” he said. “Our aim was to ensure that by the end of 2021 there would not be a single five-year-old case pending in our trial and district courts.
“Unfortunately, Covid-19 had an adverse impact on our efforts.”
He said: “Now I have issued a new set of directions and I am sure that if all stakeholders cooperate and work hard, we will achieve the target — if not by the end of 2021 then at least by the end of 2022.”
“All of us associated with the judicial system must remember what the Father of our Nation said. He said, ‘there is a higher court than the court of justice and that is the court of conscience which supersedes all the courts’,” the outgoing Chief Justice said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi.
Circle being completed: Justice Nagarathna
Justice Nagarathna said: “One of the best decisions of my life was to return from Delhi to Bengaluru and enroll myself with the Karnataka Bar Council to commence my practice. This was in order to maintain the highest traditions of the judiciary as much as I did not want to reside in the government accommodation allotted to my father, Justice E S Venkataramaiah, who was a judge in Supreme Court, and practice there. Now I find that the circle is being completed.”
She said, “The legal system in India is being geared to developments of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation during the last three decades, while at the same reiterating the goals envisaged by the founding fathers in the Directive Principles of State Policy read with the Fundamental Rights and the independence of democratic institutions established by the Constitution.”
The guiding beacons of her career — “industry, integrity, intellect, independence and involvement in work” — was imbibed from her father, Justice E S Venkataramaiah, who rose above his origins in a small village and marginalisation to become the Chief Justice of India, Justice Nagarathna said.
Following the elevation of Justice Oka, Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, a former judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court, has been appointed as the new Chief Justice of Karnataka HC.
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