A tale of unjust Justices

By Prabhakar Timble
13 June 2017 03:58 IST

 “Mountains are beautiful from a distance”, so goes a proverb. What is true of mountains could also hold for the Indian judiciary which is supposedly the peak guarding constitutional democracy from which flows law and justice. The Constitution has guaranteed the independence of the judiciary and endowed the organ with enormous power to ensure that the legislature and executive do not overstep the law and the constitution. Looking at the current state of legislators and public administrators in the country, more specifically after the ascendency of Narendra Modi on the throne, it looks that the Indian state has provided a field day for the anti-social elements of the right-wing brigade to impose their law and conduct in the name of nationalism and cultural patriotism. The state with all its instrumentalities is expected to come heavily to crush dissent and free expression. As a result, people’s faith in democracy and rule of law is largely restored because of public confidence in the higher judiciary and the Supreme Court of India.

Jurors injure, judiciary damaged

Three infamous incidents of judges coming one after another have damaged the exalted position of the judiciary. It is a clarion call for reforms in judicial appointments and toning up internal disciplinary mechanisms against erring judges. Finally, independence of the judiciary largely depends on the independence of the individual judge and the extent to which the individual judge is committed to this value. Further, judiciary would hold its position as the guardian of law and constitution provided the individual judges are wedded to the law and the constitution.

The spat between Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan, sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court which commenced with allegations of corruption among the judges of the Madras High Court and charges against 20 sitting and retired Supreme Court and high court judges and the retaliation by the Supreme Court by issuing contempt notice and relieving Justice Karnan of all judicial and administrative duties has no parallel. Justice Karnan also passed strictures against Chief Justice, leveled charges against colleagues including of custodial rape, and stayed his own transfer from Madras to Calcutta. The Supreme Court also went haywire by restraining the media from covering any outbursts of Justice Karnan, thereby impounding the freedom of expression of an individual. Both, Justice Karnan and the Supreme Court have inflicted wounds on the institution. This incident cannot be dispensed by over-simplifying it as a case of insanity or delinquency of an individual judge. The issue points out to how such persons are recruited to such honorable offices. The question is also of absence of any effective system of internal performance appraisal and tracking of conduct of judges. The controversies of Justice Karnan are making headlines since 2011 starting with his allegations of victimization owing to the ‘dalit’ caste.

Justice C. V. Nagarjuna Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh High Court shot the limelight for wrong reasons with his constant caste slurs including death threats to subordinate judges. After the first move to impeachment failed, a second attempt has been initiated by 60 Rajya Sabha members submitting a motion to this effect. The question here is also of faulty judicial appointments in higher judiciary. All this calls for immediate mechanism to deal with judicial standards and accountability. If judiciary wants to maintain its independence it needs to come out with in-house mechanism to deal with erring judges in a transparent and time-bound manner.

Amazing & amusing judge

The latest incident which bowled all is the order delivered on the date of retirement by a judge called Mahesh Chand Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court. In disposing a public interest petition, he ruled that the cow should be declared a national animal and that cow slaughter is a heinous crime inviting life imprisonment. In his 140 page judgement, the judge expounded on cow urine recording that drinking rids one of sins from previous life and that it’s needed for medicinal purposes.  Without any rational base, Justice Sharma also recorded that cow absorbs cosmic energy through its horns and that its bones are useful for tantric purposes. Outside the court, he exposed that men occupying seats of justice in higher judiciary could be intellectually bankrupt and constitutionally challenged through utterances such as “Peacock is a Bramhachari and the peahen gets pregnant drinking the tears of the peacock”. There is no harm in any individual holding such opinions as gospel truths. It erodes democracy and justice when the enforcers of the law and the constitution become torch-bearers of regressive social values and tenaciously guard myths as truths.

All the above judges have let down the Constitution of India and the Indian judiciary. They have discredited the people of India and sent a clear message not to repose unstinted confidence in the Indian judiciary. The Bar and the Bench should take up reforms in judicial appointments and accountability on a war footing. Otherwise, cunning and scheming politicians would like to grab the opportunity to evolve reforms which could bind the judiciary to the executive. To the credit of the politicians so far---- they have no role in the damage caused by the individual judges.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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