Deep crises in the judiciary were out in the public domain, as four Supreme Court judges J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph released a letter, in a press conference, raising questions over the justice delivery system and allocation of cases. Prof. Ashoka examines the fissure in the judiciary and gives his opinion, exclusively in Different Truths.
There may be varying opinions on the wisdom of the four senior-most judges summoning a press conference to vent their spleen about the problems with the judiciary. I would concur that perhaps a more discreet manner of expressing their anguish would have been preferable.
Having said that, I am sure their Lordships would have deliberated over the matter in detail before deciding to go public. Justice Chelameshwar is renowned for his immense judicial scholarship and commitment to judicial rectitude. Justice Madan Lokur was my contemporary at St. Joseph’s Allahabad and is known for his judicial analysis. I do not know much about the others but I am confident they could not have taken this decision lightly.
It is freely acknowledged that not everything is right within the hallowed portals of the judiciary. We repose enormous trust in this pillar of democracy. While the other pillars have been comprehensively corrupted, it is the only judiciary that still sustains our faith in the institutions. Undoubtedly it has failed on occasions notably during the Emergency when with the Shivakant Shukla vs. ADM Jabalpur judgement, it converted the entire nation into the largest concentration camp in the history of mankind. But with the demise of that notorious promulgation, even the judges were compelled to examine their collective consciences and at least two viz., Bhagwati and Chandrachud admitted they were in error. The only judicial hero who voted against this viz., Hansraj Khanna was sadly superceded for his rectitude but gained the place in the hallowed portals of Indian judiciary where he is regarded as the greatest judicial figure to emerge in post-Independence India. The person who superceded him viz., M.H. Beg wrote a concurring note which along with the Dred Scott judgement would go down as the most notorious judgement in any democratic country; he had declared that the MISA detunes were being accorded ‘maternal care’ which made me legitimately wonder what his relationship with his own mother was!
But all in all, despite aberrations, the institution of the judiciary has conducted itself well in at least in the higher courts mainly the Supreme Court. As a judge’s son, I note with anguish the falling standards in the lower judiciary. I have already stated in my columns that I have myself written to the Chief Justice of India and copied the letter to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court expressing anguish and serious concerns about three judges in the Delhi judiciary. I am of course not aware of whether my concerns were explored but I have been reliably advised that at least in one case the promotion of one was obstructed. It may be coincidental and my concern may have had nothing to do with it. But I have always encouraged people to register their concerns about the lower judiciary with the respective Chief Justices of the High Courts. We owe a responsibility to help maintain the sanctity of the judicial institutions.
I would hate the higher judiciary to lose the confidence it enjoys. And if by this measure, steps are taken to ameliorate, we would have reason to be grateful to the four judges in question!
©Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
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