Friday, December 8, 2023

Responsible man, irresponsible comment

Biplab Roy

Erosion of ideology is now a day common phenomena at every sphere of life; be it social, political, religious and also service in any field. Hard works spoken cannot be taken back as by the time it is withdrawn burns the hearts of others like acid. Irresponsible statement of the responsible person always gives birth lot of controversies affecting unity and integrity of the nation as a whole. It is a matter of great concern when a Judge sitting in the temple of justice gives birth to such controversy. Judicially being the most powerful pillar of the Constitution always resolves and decides disputes cropped up in between individuals, State and individuals, State and State etc. and also protects the rights of individuals guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution so imperially that commends respect from every bulk of the society. We are proud to have such judicial system in our country which upgrades the human values by interpreting the Article 21 of the Constitution with the changing of time. As a Judge resolves the controversy under no circumstances he should put himself into controversy which leaves the judiciary in the state of disharmony and indisciplined.

While writing this article few lines of golden speech of Justice R. C. Lahoti, the former Chief Justice of India, have come to my mind which are very pertinent in the present context. Relevant portion of his speech is quoted below:

“A Judge, whether in his seat or on his own, whether moving around in the city or travelling across the country, is known and seen by the people as a Judge. The holder of a judicial office is not permitted to deviate from virtue even in his dreams. So remember, if you are a Judge you are bound by the moral code of a Judge for 24 hours of the day….. The throne crown which decorates the personality of a Judge, is not taken off even while he sleeps.”

The recent controversy with regard to enjoyment of holidays of Judges has given rise by a letter of Justice K. Joseph of the Supreme Court which he wrote to the Chief Justice of India requesting him to postpone the joint conference of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Ministers of States on the Good Friday. The copy of which was also sent to the Prime Minister of India. The relevant portion of the the said letter is quoted below:

“I may with deep anguish bring to your kind notice that such an important conference should not have been held when some of us, otherwise expected to be part of the event, or otherwise committed on account of the holidays when we have religious ceremonies and family get-together as well.”

It should be spelt out that the joint conference of the Chief Justices and the Chief Ministers of all the States was held on last Good Friday to have been inaugurated by the Prime Minister to which Justice K. Joseph objected to. The aforesaid letter of Justice K. Joseph has raised a nationwide controversy raising questions such as (1) whether such letter to the Prime Minister is against the judicial disciplined; (2) whether religious festivals and family get-together of a Judge more important than to perform his duty; (3) whether duty hours of a Judge is confinedfrom 10 am to 5 pm only in court; and (4) what is effect of such letter in the judiciary as a whole.

Before discussing the aforesaid points, let me state in brief the importance of the joint conference of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Ministers of the States. This conference is being held for a long time past to remove the difficulties faced by the judiciary in the individual State and to make a root map for the coming days how judiciary may function smoothly in the State. It is the role of judiciary to dispense with justice in accordance with law but infrastructure for smooth functioning of the judiciary is provided by the State. Accordingly, it is not only a platform for exchanging thoughts amongst the Judges but it is also the occasion of the Chief Ministers of the States to interact with the Judges aiming to provide healthy judiciary in the State. The Prime Minister does not call for such conference. It is called by the Chief Justice of India and the Prime Minister as Chief Executive of the country remains present. As per business of the Supreme Court the Chief Justice and other two senior most Judges participate in such conference. Justice K. Joseph being one of the two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court was requested to be present in the said conference. In this back ground Justice K. Joseph wrote the said letter.

Discipline is the breathing of the judiciary without which the entire judicial system of the country may collapse. Discipline originates from the mutual respect, love and affection amongst the members of the family. It is obvious that there must be differences of opinion amongst the members of the family but when it goes out the family is to face criticism from the out-siders. The Prime Minister is not member of the judicial fraternity and as such writing a letter to the Prime Minister by Justice K. Joseph not to hold such conference on Good Friday is against the judicial norms and discipline. Justice K. Joseph may avoid such controversy by not sending the letter to the Prime Minister. It is common proverb that water percolates from the top to the down. India is a land of multi-religions. Following the path of Justice K. Joseph if similar issue is raised by the Judges of High Courts and members of the subordinate judiciary to attend any conference, training or other administrative works on the holidays or on the religious festivals, the name and fame of the Indian judiciary will be at stake. Giving birth of such controversy by Justice K. Joseph is really unfortunate as said by the Chief Justice of India. Justice K. Joseph made a space for the Prime Minister to make comment on this issue who nicely said that “A common man looks up to the judiciary. If a politician makes a mistake, people turn towards judiciary. So there need to be an internal mechanism to address the differences within the judiciary.” The judiciary should think over the aforesaid statement of the Prime Minister as future guidance to avoid such controversy.

A Judge seats on the Chair of the God as he being a human being decides the causes of the human being. He must have faith, belief or attachment to any religious festival but all these are secondary so long as he is holding the judicial chair. Justice K. Joseph pointed out about his commitment to the family get-together and religious festival of Good Friday. Such feelings of a person sitting in the highest chair of the judiciary is unsuitable and self-centred in view of the fact that the Judicial Magistrates across the country hold police remand in all holidays and religious festivals without any question. The Army personals, BSF, Indo-Tibetan Force, State Police perform law and duty through out the year keeping their families out side the working place. What massage Justice K. Joseph intended to give them? It would have been better if he would think about them prior to writing this letter. Justice K. T. Thomas on this issue reacted as follows:

“In America, where 98 per cent are Christians, Good Friday is a working day. Christians can attend Church service and go to work. But in India we are observed with holiday culture. I am totally opposed to this holiday mania that we suffer from.”

Similar view endorsed by Shri V. Naidu, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, which runs as follows:

“The judiciary in India has worked on holidays like Ram Navami, Sankranti, Vinayak Chaturthi, Ugadi Gudi Padwa and local festivals there have been no objection on it.”

Judges’ duty is not time bound from 10 am to 5 pm like other civil departments. After formal judicial work there are administrative works which a Judge is to perform every day. Attending in a conference called by the Chief Justice of India comes within the purview of administrative work of a Judge and the Judge who attends such conference remains on duty on that day. Forgetting such a thing by a Judge is sducidal in nature. Accordingly, personal faith, belief or family commitment of a Judge should not have any affect to his work as he is a Judge for 24 hours as stated by Justice Lahoti. Iron is not destroyed by itself but it is destroyed by its rust. No Judge should be rust to destroy the internal discipline of the Indian Judiciary

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