Four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, held a conference on January 12 criticising Dipak Misra for the distribution of cases. Photograph:( Reuters )
It was an ordinary day made unprecedented by 4 extraordinary Supreme Court judges who made there point across to the nation through a nimble press conference. The message was loud and clear that certain issues require immediate attention as the system itself and those in charge have failed to resolve them.
What the press conference did was to make the issues, which have been a taboo and spoken in a hushed tone, now are part of public discourse. The issue of corruption and arbitrariness within the Indian judiciary is not new. The judges have ensured that the topic of judicial reform and corruption remains part of public knowledge for a long time.
For the first time, the top judiciary will be evaluated for the reforms it has initiated from within rather than pushed from outside. The press conference also breaks the hubris and untouchability of the institution which in a democracy was never the right precedent.
It is not to say that the Apex Court has not done a great job but it also shied away from issues plaguing them, be it recruitment of judges to posting issues to a bench of one’s own choice. Rather than persecute the messengers, it is a great opportunity for the judiciary to renew itself by looking into issues which is being publically debated in the country.
Today because of a lack of political decision-making by the elected members, the society's need for a fair judiciary is even more. From pollution to corruption, matters instead of getting resolved at political level have gone to the courts. The court must restore confidence by addressing itself. It cannot continue as an untouchable institution as that way it will end up losing people’s trust. In a democracy, the trust of the people is the most sacred thing. It is even more sacred than the law itself as it is about faith.
Moreover, the people of the country would see as to as to how the government, the judiciary and the Opposition will behave on this issue. It will be difficult for the government to stay away from this issue for a long time. After a long time, the debate has also moved from the judiciary versus executive to the reforms in the judiciary, which is opposed to any interference from the political executive
For good or bad, with or without immediate change, things will not remain same for the Indian judiciary. The 4 judges have ensured that there will be a new normal when it comes to the Apex Court. If this press conference cannot move the judiciary to take action than nothing would it. The Chief Justice of India should be like Ceaser’s wife and must walk the talk to ensure that correction takes place from within rather than outside as public outcry can swing the pendulum to another end. That for certain will not be healthy for democracy.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).