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Guard against 5-star activists: Narendra Modi

Says verdicts must not be driven by perception

Noting that the judiciary should attain perfection as it grows more powerful, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged judges to evolve an in-built self-correction mechanism to prevent rot from within.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices here, he said the common man’s expectations from the judiciary were huge. In fact, judges were considered “divine” by ordinary citizens.

The credibility of the judiciary was so high in the public eye that even a condemned man came out thinking that the judge had not wronged him, he said.

He said the political classes, besides being under public scrutiny 24 hours a day, had several checks, in the form of the Election Commission, the Right to Information Act and now the Lokpal. But none of these applied to the judiciary. Even the slightest wound to the judiciary, in the form of corruption, would endanger the image of the entire nation, he said.

“If the government commits a fault, we have you to correct us. But you cannot afford to be seen in the wrong,” he said.

Mr. Modi said the judiciary should be cautious about delivering perception-driven verdicts, especially when perceptions were sourced from “five-star activists.”

Earlier, Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu described the relationship between the judiciary and the executive as that of siblings who hold each other’s hands and correct each other when needed. The judiciary, he said, was open to “suggestions, change and dialogue” to improve the administration of justice.

Even as the CJI laid emphasis on the government’s cooperation to upgrade court infrastructure, the Prime Minister expressed unhappiness over the existence of more than a 100 tribunals and the way they were eating into financial resources.

Archaic laws contributing to backlog, says Modi

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu has said that judges should be consulted before budgetary allocations are made for the judiciary.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices here on Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed with the Chief Justice that the judiciary could not solve pendency alone and a coordinated effort was required.

Mr. Modi said pendency had been a constant refrain at joint conferences held in the past. He reminisced about being a witness to threadbare discussions at earlier conferences, and pointed out that no solution had been arrived at so far. Instead, he drew attention to how unnecessary and archaic laws had held up court proceedings, adding to pendency. “Courts take years to interpret these poorly drafted laws. This is a reason for pendency. Again, our justice delivery system is caught up in a morass of unnecessary laws.”

While Mr. Modi highlighted the need to sustain quality in the judiciary, Mr. Justice Dattu pointed out that the best minds were hardly attracted to the judiciary. He pointed out that the judge-population ratio had dipped to 1:61,865. “The stark reality is that the salary of a judge is somewhat that of a fresh graduate working in a law firm. I fear for the future,” he said.

Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda agreed that the judicial system was under strain.

Tribunals

Jayant Sriram reports:

Expressing concern over the low rate of case disposal by the country’s various tribunals, Mr. Modi said it should be noted if these bodies were actually helping the functioning of the judiciary.

“I want all seniors in the Supreme Court to contemplate if tribunals are actually helping in improving functioning of judiciary as a lot of budget goes waste in tribunals and we need to rectify that in a positive way,” Mr. Modi said.

The Prime Minister asked those present at the conference to consider if the expenditure incurred on tribunals could be used to strengthen the court system if it was found they were not serving the purpose for which they were set up.

The Prime Minister’s remarks come in the wake of recent efforts being made by the government to prune down the number of tribunals in the country. The Department of Legal Affairs in the Law Ministry had recently written to all Union Ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.

The Law Ministry is of the view that there is a possibility that some of the tribunals can be “converged/merged” to avoid “overlapping/identical functions” being discharged by them.

In February, a parliamentary standing committee also highlighted the high pendency of cases in tribunals, and said the matter needed urgent attention. The committee’s report said that as on December 31, 2014, there were 1.55 lakh cases pending at the Central Administrative Tribunal, 99,349 at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, 96,039 at the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and 44,756 cases at the Railway Claim Tribunal. “The pendency in those tribunals has defeated the purpose for which those tribunals have been created as parallel to high courts,” the report noted.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2020 6:43:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modi-chief-justices-conference-judiciary/article7070485.ece

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