Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said there is a growing tendency to disregard and even disrespect the Court orders by the executive which is supposed to assist and co-operate for the rule of law to prevail in the nation.
Chief Justice Ramana was delivering the Lavu Venkateswarlu 5th Endowment Lecture on ‘Indian Judiciary-Future Challenges’ at the Siddhartha Engineering College in Vijayawada on Sunday.
Highlighting the challenges before the judiciary, the Chief Justice of India said a ‘non-cooperative executive’ is one of the concerns.
“Courts do not have the power of the purse or the sword. Court orders are only good when they get executed. The executive needs to assist and co-operate for the rule of law to prevail in the nation. However, there appears to be a growing tendency to disregard, and even disrespect court orders by the executive. Unless the executive and legislation make sincere efforts to fill the judicial vacancies, appoint prosecutors, strengthen infrastructure, and make laws with a clear foresight and stakeholder analysis, the judiciary cannot be held responsible alone,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
‘Myth of appointments’
About the filling vacancies in the courts, Chief Justice Ramana said, “It is nowadays fashionable to reiterate phrases such as ‘judges are themselves appointing judges’. I consider this to be one of the widely propagated myths.”
“The fact is the judiciary is merely one of the many players involved in the process. Many authorities are involved including the Union Law Ministry, State governments, Governor, High Court Collegia, Intelligence Bureau, and lastly, the topmost executive. I am sad to note that the well-informed also propagate the aforesaid notion. After all, this narrative suits certain sections,” he said.
Stating that he appreciated the government’s effort in appointing several judges in recent times, Chief Justice Ramana said, “However, some recommendations made by High Courts are yet to be transmitted to the Supreme Court by the Union Law Ministry. It is expected that the Government needs to strictly adhere to the timelines laid down in the Malik Mazhar Case.”
‘Liberate public prosecutors’
Stressing the need to liberate the institution of public prosecutors (PPs), the Chief Justice if India said PPs under the government do nothing to prevent frivolous and non-deserving cases from reaching the courts and automatically oppose bail applications, without independently applying their minds.
“They attempt to suppress evidence during the trial which could benefit the accused. A holistic rework needs to be undertaken and to insulate the public prosecutors, an independent selection committee may be constituted for their appointment,” he suggested.
Explaining how the judiciary played a key role in nation-building, Chief Justice Ramana said that in the Kesavananda Bharti, the Court for the first time expounded on its power to review amendments to the constitution.
“It was only through such an exposition that the 39th Amendment Act was struck down in the Indira Gandhi vs. Raj Narain case . The power of judicial review is often sought to be branded as judicial overreach. Such generalisations are misguided. The Constitution created three co-equal organs, and in this context, the judiciary has been given the role of reviewing the legality of steps taken by the other two organs. If the judiciary does not have the power of judicial review, then the functioning of democracy in this country would be unthinkable,” he said.
The Chief Justice reiterated his concerns over the absence of well-considered legislations.
“There is usually no impact assessment or basic scrutiny of constitutionality before passing of legislations. The minimum that is expected while drafting laws is that they abide by settled Constitutional principles. They must also think of providing effective remedies for issues that may arise out of the law. But these principles seemingly are being ignored. This directly results in the clogging of courts,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
Attacks on judges
Raising concerns over the increasing attacks on the judges, Chief Justice Ramana said, “At times, there are also concerted campaigns in print and social media against judges if parties do not get a favourable order. These attacks appear to be sponsored and synchronised.”
Stating that the law enforcement agencies need to deal with such attacks effectively, he said authorities do not proceed with the investigation unless the Court passes orders.
“Another aspect that affects the fair functioning and independence of the judiciary is the rising number of media trials. New media tools have the enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad and the real and fake,” he said.
On average, judges hear about 40 cases a day and holidays are devoted to completing pending judicial work. Even after 2-3 decades of service, after retirement, judges are not given basic security, housing or healthcare, he said and added that the judge to population ratio in India is 21 judges per million people.
He further said that there is a requirement for domain expertise in the judiciary. “We need judges and lawyers with an understanding of developments across various fields. It is necessary to have continued judicial training from technical experts. Legal education needs to keep pace with the times and constantly update their curricula,” he said.
He said the judiciary needs a tailor-made platform to meet the requirements such as virtual hearings.
Supreme Court judge justice Lavu Nageswara Rao, after whose father’s name the memorial lecture was instituted, his mother Lavu Nagendramma, SC judges Justice J.K. Maheswari, Justice P.S. Narasimha, AP High Court Chief Justice Prasanth Kumar Mishra, Telangana High Court Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and others were present.