Judicial interventions to nudge executive and not to target, usurp power: CJI Ramana

Observing that ‘Laxman Rekha’ of separation of power is “sacrosanct”, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana Friday said at times courts are compelled to intervene in the interest of justice and the intention is to nudge the executive, and not to usurp its role and they should not be projected as judiciary targeting another institution.

The CJI warned against any such attempts to project judicial interventions as targeting of the executive and said that it was “totally misplaced” and would prove detrimental to the health of democracy if encouraged.

Speaking at the Constitution Day celebration organised by the Supreme Court registry, Justice Ramana also raised the issue of attacks on the judges and judiciary especially in social media, and said that they appeared to be “sponsored and synchronised”.

“An area of grave concern for the judiciary is the increasing attacks on Judges. Physical attacks on judicial officers are on the rise. Then there are attacks on the judiciary in the media, particularly social media. These attacks appear to be sponsored and synchronised. The law enforcing agencies, particularly the Central agencies, need to deal with such malicious attacks effectively. The Governments are expected to create a secure environment so that the judges and judicial officers can function fearlessly,” the CJI said at the function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Justice Ramana termed as “alarming” the huge pendency of cases particularly in lower judiciary and batted for “a multi-pronged approach involving all the stakeholders” to tackle the menace, saying, “the same judiciary which offers solutions based on a mere postcard, paradoxically, struggles for years to take regular litigations to their logical conclusion due to various complex reasons”.

He said, “filling up existing vacancies of judicial officers, creation of more and more posts, filling up vacancies of Public Prosecutors, Government Pleaders and Standing Counsel, creation of necessary infrastructure, sensitising police and the executive about the need to cooperate in court proceedings, deployment of modern technological tools and Infrastructure development” are the steps needed to tackle the pendency.

He dealt with the criticism of the judiciary crossing its boundaries and said, “The Laxman Rekha drawn by the Constitution is sacrosanct. But, there are times when courts are compelled to pay attention to unresolved grievances, in the interest of justice. The intention behind such limited judicial interventions is to nudge the executive, and not to usurp its role.” “Attempts to project such interventions and constructive observations as the targeting of one institution by another, are totally misplaced. If encouraged, such attempts will prove to be detrimental to the health of democracy,” he said and stressed the need of educating even the well-informed sections of society about the Constitution.

“Misgivings about the constitutional scheme are mainly due to a lack of Constitutional literacy among even the well-informed sections of society. Despite it being the document that decides their destiny, the vast majority of our population is oblivious to its relevance and importance. There is an urgent need to launch a massive drive to raise awareness about the Constitution- the rights and duties of citizens, as well as the roles of other coordinate branches of the State,” he said.

The CJI thanked the Centre for clearing names of judges in the higher judiciary for appointments and said that now the apex court has four women judges and hoped that the number of vacancies will be “reduced to bare minimum soon”.

He also raised the issue of poor infrastructure in lower courts and said, “I beseech the Hon’ble Prime Minister to strengthen our efforts in building state-of-the-art Court complexes for the lower judiciary.” “The framers of the Constitution made accountability an integral element with respect to the Legislature and Executive. However, they consciously decided to keep the Judiciary on a different pedestal. They trusted the competence of the men and women who would adorn the Bench, in upholding the Constitution.

“Looking back, I can proudly claim that, as an institution, the Judiciary has lived up to the faith reposed in it by the Constituent Assembly. The fact that the Indian Judiciary continues to be the last hope for those in distress, suggests that it is on the right track. For this, I give full credit to my colleagues on the Bench- present and past, the members of the Bar and the Registry,” he said.

He said it is a duty of all to “secure social, economic, and political justice to all the citizens” and it was not the responsibility of the Judiciary alone.

“The Executive and the Legislature must work in conjunction with the Judiciary to ensure complete justice as envisaged under the Constitution. Any deviation by the Legislature or Executive from the path prescribed by the Constitution will only lead to additional burden on the Judiciary,” he said.

“One notable outcome of this enrichment is the idea of Public Interest Litigation. I am not sure if anywhere else in the world a simple letter written by a common man receives judicial attention of the highest order. Yes, it is sometimes ridiculed as ‘Publicity Interest Litigation’ due to occasional misuse. We must be ever vigilant to discourage motivated PILs. At the same time, we must also acknowledge the enormous public good achieved through such progressive expansion of Constitutional Jurisprudence,” he said.

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