Judiciary Institutional Issues

[op-ed snap] Restoring order in the courtop-ed snap

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the allegations by the four SC judges, against the CJI. It also talks about possible effects of these allegations on the judiciary.

Allegation by the four judges

  1. The judges has alleged that the CJI has been assigning cases, selectively to Benches of his preference, thus ignoring well established convention
  2. Those cases can have far-reaching consequences to the nation
  3. Justification for their objectionable conduct: In justification of their otherwise objectionable conduct in addressing a press conference on these issues, all of the four judges said they had been left with no other option

View of other senior (retd.) judges and law veterans on the issue

  1. Naturally, this incident has sent shock waves across the country in general and in the legal circles in particular
  2. Many former judges, eminent jurists, and senior counsel have found the conduct of the four judges to be highly disagreeable
  3. Former CJI, Justice T.S. Thakur, said that the conduct of the judges does not help resolve the issues
  4. However, a few former judges and lawyers have sought to justify the action by asserting that the judges had no other choice as their repeated pleas to the CJI
  5. They also feel that it is more important to address the issues raised by the judges rather than find fault with them for going public
  6. The opinion is divided, but no one can deny that the action of the four judges has caused serious damage to the credibility of the institution

It has set a bad precedent 

  1. Convention is that judges will never approach the media for redressal of their grievances, which is an internal matter
  2. All these developments have enabled the media (both print and electronic) to extensively hold discussions about the functioning of the judiciary, which otherwise they could not have done
  3. All this has further damaged the image of the judiciary
  4. The common man, who had absolute faith in the institution and in the impartiality of judges, is now let to suspect that court decisions may not be purely based on merit

Commendable Silence

  1. The conduct of the CJI and the Prime Minister in maintaining silence on the developments is commendable
  2. The Central government has also rightly made its position clear that this being an internal matter of the judiciary, it will not intervene
  3. The stand taken by the Bar Council of India and the Supreme Court Bar Association is also praiseworthy
  4. Both have urged the Supreme Court judges to discuss the issues and settle them amicably by themselves

The way forward

  1. The CJI cannot absolve himself of his responsibility for the present state of affairs
  2. He has to exercise his powers reasonably, without giving scope for any justifiable criticism
  3. Even in the past, there might have been some instances where there was similar criticism of assignment of cases to preferred Benches
  4. But such instances were few and far between and they were never discussed in public
  5. Let us hope that all the judges of the Supreme Court, including the CJI, will sort out their differences amicably and find a satisfactory solution to the problem
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