Judiciary can no longer ignore rot

Some remarks made by Justice Kemal Pasha of the Kerala High Court at and after a function marking his retirement about the functioning of the court and of the chief justice, Justice Antony Dominic, are similar to those made by four Supreme Court judges in January about the functioning of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India. Justice Pasha was unhappy with the mid-term roster change after he pronounced judgements in two important cases. The issue was again the propriety of the chief justice making unusual changes in the roster, exercising his power as the master of the roster. The chief justice heard the appeal in one of those cases and quashed Justice Pasha’s ruling. Justice Pasha felt that the chief justice should have avoided hearing the case in which the head of his church was involved. The chief justice and another judge, Justice P N Ravindran, who were to retire later, replied in public to Justice Pasha’s comments. Justice Ravindran said that some “upstarts’’, after retirement, were trying to tarnish the reputation of the judiciary. 

The comments and the exchanges between the judges show that the issues which came into public view in
January are not confined to the Supreme Court. If the Kerala high court has these problems, they might be there in other high courts, too. The issue of roster seems to be contentious everywhere, and it is felt by some
judges that the chief justice’s powers are not exercised fairly. There is no doubt that the reputation of the institution would be damaged when justice is not seen to be done. Justice Pasha even said that extrajudicial forces may be creating hurdles in the administration of justice and that the judiciary was facing attacks from within and without. 

These are strong words, and coming from a judge, they do not do any good to the image of the judiciary. It is still worse when judges enter into public spats and describe each other in derogatory terms. Judiciary commanded trust and credibility and has been held in esteem by the people even as the executive and the legislature have declined. This last hope of justice and democracy is being challenged now. Only the judiciary, which means the judges, can ensure that the institution does not suffer any more knocks and regains whatever prestige it has lost. Justice Pasha was critical of the collegium system also when he said that he had not seen in court some of the lawyers who have been recommended for appointment as judges. This is also a matter of concern, because the quality of judges has an important bearing on the standards of the judiciary and the quality of justice. 

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Judiciary can no longer ignore rot


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