Judicial accountability includes all

Judicial accountability includes all

It is important to begin from the infamous role of Supreme Court in A D M Jabalpur case during emergency, which let down the people. The judges who were responsible for passing the judgment had put many of us in shame. It is also a misconception to think that it was in Maneka Gandhi’s case in 1978 that for the first time ‘fairness’ and ‘reasonable’ was incorporated in Article 14. It was actually the judge Vivan Bose, who in 1952 said that ‘fair justice’ and ‘reasonable’ is the requirement of Article 14.

We all have to make judges to do serious introspection and examine the merits. In the recent past, three news items caught my attention, which is seemingly unrelated, but to my mind they ought to be integrated. One item was the reporting on the high degree of pollution in Vapi in Gujarat. Then few days later, another news report, a judgment by a single judge of Gujarat High Court, which not only dismissed a writ, which had allegation of pollution by an industry in Vapi, but also imposed a penalty of Rs 48 lakhs on the petitioner. Even if the PIL was motivated, but still Rs 48 Lakhs as penalty in India is a huge amount.

There should be greater public awareness and the people should have participatory role in governance. That’s what democracy is all about. People’s role is not merely to vote at sporadic elections but to monitor constantly the performance of all institutions, including the judiciary. Judicial accountability includes all these things. There is considerable, rather almost total lack of any effort at fair criticism of the judgments and role of judiciary.
There is a ‘law quarterly review’, which reviews the modern judgments, which could help the judges to do self-introspection, but most of the articles written by the advocates are to please the judges. We need to write articles which should objectively analyse judgments and render a fair view.

According to me, the misuse of the contempt power is something, which erodes the credibility of the judiciary most. Even before the Act was amended, truth should be a permissible defense. People, who don't want to say something, take the pretext of the contempt of court but we should remove this misapprehension by encouraging honest criticism.

(The writer is former Chief Justice of India.)

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