All forms of authority under challenge, says Justice Bobde

‘Personal attacks on judges uncalled for and destructive’

October 31, 2019 12:47 am | Updated November 18, 2019 09:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

New innings:  Every religion has beliefs not supported by reason, says Justice S.A. Bobde.

New innings: Every religion has beliefs not supported by reason, says Justice S.A. Bobde.

Chief Justice of India-designate, Justice S.A. Bobde, said every religion has beliefs not supported by reason.

“Every religion has its own practices which are a mystery. There are beliefs not supported by reason. Look at the very act of praying... every religion has its own way of praying and conditions for offering prayers,” Justice Bobde told The Hindu  on Wednesday.

Justice Bobde, who would be sworn in as the 47th Chief Justice of India on November 18, believes we live in an age where authority itself, be it of parents or Parliament, is under challenge.

He was responding to a question whether the authority of the judiciary is under “attack” from social media and online articles; and whether they have exceeded the reasonable limits of free speech. 

“It is not just the judiciary... What is happening in society? There is challenge to the authority of parents, schools, Parliament. This is the age of challenging authority,” he said. “Questioning by itself is healthy, but it should not be malafide and vicious. Personal attacks on judges are uncalled for and destructive,” he said.

The CJI-designate said there is “excellent communication” between the Supreme Court and the government. “Now, it is as good as it gets,” Justice Bobde said.

On delays in governmental clearance of SC Collegium recommendations, he said “machineries operate at their own speed.”

On more and more matters of faith coming to the court as PILs under Article 32, Justice Bobde said people approach the apex court to exercise their right to freedom of religion.

Asked if the Supreme Court was the right forum to examine the battle between basic rights and religious tradition, Justice Bobde said, “The perception (in cases concerning matters of faith) is that the fundamental rights have been breached. Obviously, the Supreme Court is the right forum.”

Balance struck

The CJI-designate said the legislature and courts have intervened in the past to abolish religious practices which are a crime under the law. The legislature and courts have struck a balance in the past.

“For instance, if you sacrifice somebody, then it is murder. That is how Sati was abolished. It was murder under the law,” Justice Bobde said.

Asked whether the government should play more of a role in the appointment process of judges, Justice Bobde said, “The Supreme Court has said what it wants to say in the NJAC judgment.”

On whether there should be a set of rules framed for judges’ recusal, Justice Bobde said recusal is a “voluntary act and an act of conscience” by the judge. “Parties can bring their apprehensions to the notice of the judge, but they cannot ask for recusal. That will pose a danger to the system. That is if the parties think they are about to lose a case, they will immediately ask for recusal of the judge,” Justice Bobde said.

He listed the category of cases which require priority during his tenure as top judge. “Battles for life, liberty must take priority. Matters involving huge commercial interests require priority. Matters involving political problems and roads in the North East need priority... Sometimes our priorities are not visible to people at large,” Justice Bobde said.

He said live-recording of court proceedings would require the laying down of objective criteria.

“This has to be carefully considered. Deciding to allow it or not could be subjective. I’m not sure what the effect would be. It will depend on the person in focus,” the CJI-designate said.

On fewer holidays for the apex court, Justice Bobde said, “This is not the kind of job you do continuously. The task of judging a case does create a lot of pressure, fatigue, stress, and even ill-health. It is absolutely important to unwind and be able to reflect without any pressure, which is what we do during (court) vacations.”

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