Independence of judiciary is dear to me, it is non-negotiable: CJI Lodha

“What is dear to me is the independence of judiciary… the independence of judiciary is non-negotiable,” Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, who is retiring on September 27, said. (file photo)  

The public trust in independence of judiciary and its inherent strength will ensure the failure of efforts made to encroach into judicial domain, Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha said on Saturday.

“What is dear to me is the independence of judiciary… the independence of judiciary is non-negotiable,” the Chief Justice said in his inaugural speech at the Rule of Law Convention 2014 on the topic ‘Next Level of Legal Reforms in Legal Profession and the Justice System for a Resurgent India’.

“Judiciary has inherent strength. No effort will succeed in taking away the independence of the judiciary,” CJI Lodha told an audience of serving and retired Supreme Court judges and senior lawyers, including legal luminaries like Anil Divan and Soli J. Sorabjee.

The Chief Justice, who is retiring on September 27, has presided over a period of foundational change when the highest judiciary’s 21-year-old prerogative to appoint judges to the constitutional courts of the country, exercised through the collegium system, is lost with the parliament clearing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).

As he speaks, the 121st Constitutional Amendment Bill has been forwarded to the State Legislatures to endow the NJAC with constitutional status. The NJAC gives politicians an equal role in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.

Refusing to specifically talk on the NJAC, the Chief Justice instead spoke of his recent meeting with Dr. Chris Stephens, the Chairman of the U.K Judicial Appointments Commission, an independent organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Justice there.

He said as per the U.K. law, the chairman of the Commission should be a lay man. Judges to the Supreme Court and substantial part of the Court of Appeals there are appointed by this Commission led by a common man.

“He (Stephens) said they have been able to achieve transparency in judicial appointments. However, the quality of judges has not changed,” CJI Lodha recounted.

Similarly, he recounted how at a Johannesburg conference, foreign dignitaries were in awe on finding out that the Indian Supreme Court “is empowered to annul even a Constitutional amendment passed by the parliament”.

The CJI said the public in India reposes great faith in the judiciary and “understands that judiciary’s institutional independence cannot be touched”.

“There will be Rule of Law only when judicial independence is protected,” the Chief Justice said.

On the other hand, he said it is the duty of the judges to remain incorruptible.

“There is growing corruption today. There are people who will play all sorts of tricks and tempt judge. Do not fall for this. We have to ensure that judiciary is corruption-free, and then Rule of Law will follow,” Chief Justice Lodha concluded.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 6:11:19 PM |

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