Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday said the Supreme Court exists to hear every cry for personal liberty and fundamental rights.
The main purpose of the court is the “exercise of its jurisdiction as a protector of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty inhering in every citizen,” the Chief Justice said in a judgment.
“The history of this court indicates that it is in the seemingly small and routine matters involving grievances of citizens that issues of moment, both in jurisprudential and constitutional terms, emerge…. The right to personal liberty is a precious and inalienable right recognised by the Constitution. In attending to such grievances, the Supreme Court performs a plain constitutional duty, obligation and function; no more and no less,” the judgment said.
The Chief Justice’s oral comments in court and judgment on the same day follows reported remarks by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju that the Supreme Court was taking on “extra burden” by hearing bail applications and frivolous public interest litigation (PIL) petitions.
Chief Justice Chandrachud said the court could not afford to ignore even the faintest plea for personal liberty.
“If we do not act in matters of personal liberty and grant relief then what are we doing here?” the Chief Justice asked in court on Friday.
The court was hearing the plea of a man, Iqram, who would spend a total of 18 years for electricity theft. He was convicted in nine separate cases of electricity theft for a period of two years each. His sentence was ordered to run concurrently. However, the prison authorities treated his sentence in each case to run consecutively, one after the other, for a total of 18 years. The Allahabad High Court had confirmed the view of the jail authorities.
The Supreme Court set aside the High Court judgment and said Iqram’s sentence would run concurrently.