Saturday, April 13, 2024

Judiciary has to be constantly vigilant

Justice B Sudershan Reddy

An intellectual, socio-political and cultural environment in which the judiciary can remain substantively free from extraneous, illegal and/or motivated pressures is sine qua non for the functioning of a constitutional democracy. And that is the normative framework of Article 121 of the Constitution of India whereby restrictions are placed, even on legislators, with regard to the content and context of discussions about judges. Having said that, informed, reasoned and reasonable debate about orders and judgements of the courts is also necessary in order for the judges to be able to make continuing assessments of how well they are bearing the burden of rendering of justice. Protection of independence and yet engaging in a healthy critique are two necessary parts of a moral compact. And that moral compact needs to be protected against temptation to engage in discussions that are motivated by political and economic opportunism. Nor can this be a platform to drive fear into the heart of justice. Consequently, the larger burden falls upon the ruling regimes to instruct, particularly the top leaders, to refrain from making comments that derogate from the moral authority of the judges. This would set an example for the opposition and the media. The role of judges is to intensify the benefits of democracy, particularly in respect of fundamental rights and social justice, to the people. This serves to make the nation-state stable and enables the people as a nation to assess whether the goals of the constitutional democracy are being consistently treated as paramount in all aspects of governance.
The institution should not be destroyed on the anvil of political opportunism, its constitutional imperatives subjugated to the whim and caprice of the executive, and its moral authority dissolved in the corrosive acid of divisive passions. It is also necessary to point out the obverse. How the judges themselves comport, both inside and outside their court rooms, in terms of their behaviour, intellectual and moral essentials of constitutionalism, and the personal integrity that they bring to their duties. The judiciary as a whole, and the individual members constituting it, need to be constantly aware of the burden they carry.

Also read: The crisis of civil liberties today, and the need for a quest based on human dignity

Justice B Sudershan Reddy
Justice B Sudershan Reddy
Justice Sudershan Reddy is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India known for path-breaking judgments. He was also the Chief Justice of Assam High Court.


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