The Chief Justices’ Conference on Friday took an introspective turn with the highest judiciary making the ‘need to re-examine judicial values’ a topic of discussion in the conclave’s 25-point agenda.
The two-day conclave, led by the Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justices T.S. Thakur and Anil R. Dave, has the Chief Justices of 24 High Courts in attendance, and is being held at the Supreme Court after two years.
The judiciary’s code of conduct was adopted 18 years ago, in May 1997 in a Full Court Meeting of the Supreme Court. This document, the ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial Life,’ serves as a guide to be observed by judges in the impartial administration of justice.
This code was the outcome of a resolution passed in another Chief Justices’ Conference held way back in September 1992. The cardinal rule of the 1997 document is that “justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen as done.” Its first tenet being that the “behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary.”
The conference would have the Chief Justices consider the need for a review of the selection process of judges and judicial officers at all levels. They would also decide steps to be taken for capacity building and identification of potential within the institution.
On the problem of case backlog, the Chief Justices would consider the establishment of an arrears committee at the High Court level and create uniformity in giving the pendency figures. There are 2.64 crore undecided cases in the subordinate courts and 42 lakh pending in the High Courts.
The conclave is proposing to make the High Courts financially independent and further increase the salaries, emoluments and post-retirement benefits for High Court Chief Justices and judges.
Chief Justice Dattu decided to go ahead with the judicial conference despite objection from within his brethren about it being held on Good Friday. Justice Kurian Joseph, a Supreme Court judge, has reportedly written to him taking exception to hosting such an “important conference” on a day when some of the judges are otherwise engaged in religious ceremonies and family obligations. The Chief Justice is reported to have replied that the conference was scheduled to resolve immediate issues concerning the judicial institution and institutional interests overcame individual interests.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a joint conference of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Ministers.