Outgoing Supreme Court judge Amitava Roy Friday cautioned his warring colleagues against projecting “a fractured face” since that would lead to the institution losing credibility which in turn would undermine the rule of law. “You must have noticed that in spite of all the reservations that many may have about the judicial process… people flock to the courts, seeking refuge for justice. And it is because of the credibility this institution enjoys, the trust which it enjoys. Therefore, in no case, I believe it’s my feeling, I don’t intend at all to show disrespect to anyone or any institution, in my perception and in my assessment, I feel that we cannot in any way project a fractured face to anyone,” Justice Roy, who is retiring this month-end, said at a farewell meet organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association.
“If that happens, we lose credibility. If we lose credibility, we lose paramountcy of the judicial process. If we lose paramountcy of the judicial process, the rule of law is undermined,” he told the gathering that included Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and other Supreme Court judges including Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. Along with Justice J Chelameswar, Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph had called a press conference on January 12 to question the conduct of the CJI, especially on the allocation of cases.
Justice Roy said: “We are all proud to believe in this institution. And as you all know, and it is perceived, this institution is the guardian of the rule of law and the custodian of public faith. The bedrock of our existence is the faith, the trust, the credibility that we enjoy and, therefore, it is very important that we conduct ourselves in a way befitting the role that is assigned to us as the sentinel of the privy and the majesty of the office.”
“When I reflect, I find that each one of my colleagues is an excellent judge by his or her own right. Individually, they are brilliant. But it is necessary to be together, that is what I mean to convey. We may exist as a musical note in isolation, but that note would only be a sound of some frequency. It is only when we integrate and blend that the melody will emerge. The melody that is necessary for the judicial institution.”
Warning about the danger of the judiciary losing credibility, Justice Roy said “what I intend to tell you is this, that we, being the guardian of the rule of law, need to secure the same. Otherwise the caveat is: extra legal elements and military muscles are waiting in the wings to take over. And that would spell the destruction of the institution. And that would mean our extinction because we survive for the institution. It is not otherwise.”
“In every institution, which is a collective entity, it is expected that there would be difference in views, difference in opinions, difference in perspectives, difference in attitudes,” he said. “I asked myself, if the goal is one and the mission is same, meaning thereby institutional well-being, does this difference inevitably have to result in disintegration, degeneration or is it that such differences should motivate deference to each other’s views which would facilitate an almost foolproof… concrete decision for the benefit of the institution and its well-being?”
This was possible, he said. “Difference in opinion should not necessarily descend to our hearts to become or degenerate or generate a difference in our hearts. That should be avoided…”. He said his message was that “we need to be together”. “We must demonstrate to all concerned that we are one, one composite unit, upright, independent, fearless and resolved to achieve our mission. That should be our goal,” he said.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, who also spoke on the occasion, said it was “a pity” that Supreme Court judges had to retire at age 65. He said the government should relook at the retirement age of judges of the trial courts, High Courts and Supreme Court.