Judges Bridge Gap Between Social Reality And Law, Protect Constitution – CJI At Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture, Ranchi
“The journey to become a judge is full of aspirations. Till date, practice before the Constitutional Courts is a dream for many and is accessible to a select few."
The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana today delivered a lecture at Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture, Ranchi to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the Judiciary of Jharkhand which began with the setting up of Circuit Bench of Patna High Court in Ranchi in the year 1972.
The inaugural lecture was instituted in the memory of Justice Satya Brata Sinha, a former Judge of the Supreme Court. The topic of the lecture delivered at the memorial lecture by the CJI was 'life of a judge.'
While referring to the 2nd World War, CJI initiated his lecture by stating that, "it was clear for modern democracies that law is not a mere one-way projection of authority. Renowned scholars have therefore argued that a law cannot really be classified as a "law" unless it imbibes within itself the ideals of justice and equity. Any enactment devoid of the object of substantive fairness can never be justified on the grounds of meeting procedural fairness alone."
Further, the CJI continued to state that a Judge in modern democracy cannot be defined as one who merely states the law. Saying so, the CJI remarked, "A Judge holds a unique position in the democratic scheme. Firstly, he bridges the gap between social reality and law. Secondly, he protects the spirit and the values of the Constitution. It is courts and judges who balance formal democracy with substantive democracy."
In addition to this, the CJI stated that in ensuring that the transition occurs in a fair and just manner, the role of a person holding a position in the judiciary or governance becomes extremely crucial. It is their decisions at critical junctures that influence the growth and progress of humanity.
CJI NV Ramana focused on the role of a Judge in contemporary society while stating that with legal jurisprudence growing leaps and bounds, the role of a judge has undergone sea-change in all respects.
While stating that today every conceivable problem in society is expected to be addressed by the Judiciary, CJI mentioned that people want the Judiciary to guide them in every turn of their life.
CJI further stated, "The journey to become a judge is full of aspirations. Till date, practice before the Constitutional Courts is a dream for many and is accessible to a select few. For a system based on equality and equity, the practice of law in India is yet to enter the domain of equal participation and representation. Access to opportunities, right from legal education to the legal profession, is largely dependent on one's socio-economic conditions. The struggles are multiplied when the person is a first-generation professional. Without a nurturing hand or support system, legal practitioners belonging to smaller places or disadvantaged socio-economic groups cannot easily find a platform. In the past seven decades, the process to appoint judges to the Constitutional Courts has undergone a lot of change. One positive outcome of this is increased inclusivity with persons from deprived backgrounds finding place on the bench."
CJI also made a reference to his background in this context.
Additionally, the CJI stated that in India, Judges are not mere arbiters of disputes but also administrators of justice and for this the Judges must be aware of the social realities and should not be confined to as social recluse.
"We must understand that impartiality and independence are a state of mind. However, the undeniable fact is that our engagement with society undergoes a drastic change once we take up judgeship. There is a view that a judge should have continued connection with the society. But sections of society have certain perceptions about judges moving around in social circles. The choice is difficult. But, I personally believe that one must remain connected with the society and be aware of social realities and the problems of the people," CJI remarked.
The CJI also mentioned that the responsibility of judging is extremely burdensome where every litigant enters the courtroom with an expectation of obtaining justice.
"We must understand that impartiality and independence are a state of mind. However, the undeniable fact is that our engagement with society undergoes a drastic change once we take up judgeship. There is a view that a judge should have continued connection with the society. But sections of society have certain perceptions about judges moving around in social circles. The choice is difficult. But, I personally believe that one must remain connected with the society and be aware of social realities and the problems of the people," stated the CJI.
Furthermore, CJI remarked that there exists a misconception in the minds of the people that Judges stay in ultimate comfort, work only from 10 am to 4 pm and enjoy their holidays. Such a narrative is untrue.
CJI focused on the responsibilities of a Judge stating, "It is not easy to prepare for more than 100 cases every week, listen to novel arguments, do independent research, and author judgments, while also dealing with the various administrative duties of a Judge, particularly of a senior judge. A person who has no connection with the profession cannot even imagine the number of hours that go into preparation. We spend many hours reading the paper-books and making notes for matters listed the next day. Preparation for the next day begins soon after the court rises, and will go on beyond mid-night on most days. We continue to work even during weekends and Court holidays to do research and author pending judgments. In this process, we miss out on many joys of our lives. Sometimes, we miss out on important family events. At times, I wonder if my grandchildren would recognise me at all after failing to see them for days together."
CJI also mentioned one of the biggest challenges that the Judiciary faces is prioritizing the matters for adjudication.
"Every case is equally important for a judge. The burden on an already fragile judicial infrastructure is increasing by the day. There have been a few knee jerk reactions in augmenting infrastructure in a few places. However, I haven't heard of any concrete plan to equip the judiciary to meet the challenges of the foreseeable future, leave alone, a long term vision for the century and ahead," the CJI remarked.
CJI stated that the Judges and Judiciary have no power or authority to introduce a uniform system. The executive also has its own limitations, as it may not be able to appreciate the needs of the judiciary. It is only with the coordinated efforts by the judiciary and the executive that this alarming issue of infrastructure can be addressed.
CJI further also expressed his concern over media trials, stating, "At times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges. Another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of judiciary is the rising number of media trials. New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad and the real and the fake. Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases."
CJI remarked that biased views were propagated by the media which affects people and health of the democracy and harms the system. Print Media Print media still has certain degree of accountability. Whereas, electronic media has zero accountability as what it shows vanishes into thin year. Still worse is social media.
The CJI mentioned that there is a growing demand for stricter media regulations and accountability, and looking at the recent trends, it best for the media to self-regulate.
The CJI urged the media, particularly the electronic and social media, to behave responsibly being an important stakeholder as the Judges are.
He further urged the media to use its power of voice to educate the people and energize the nation in our collective endeavor to build a progressive, prosperous, and peaceful India.
For a vibrant democracy, the CJI stated, "If we want a vibrant democracy, we need to strengthen our judiciary and empower our judges. These days, we are witnessing increasing number of physical attacks on the judges. Can you imagine, a judge who has served on the bench for decades, putting hardened criminals behind the bar, once he retires, loses all the protection that came with the tenure? Judges have to live in the same society as the people that they have convicted, without any security or assurance of safety."
The CJI states that ironically Judges are not extended with similar protection as those given to politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, and other public representatives who are often provided with security even after retirement.
"No doubt, the Judiciary holds a special position in our constitutional scheme. The judiciary has, by and large, lived up to the responsibility entrusted to it by the framers of the Constitution. For our people, it continues to be the most trusted organ of the State," CJI remarked.