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Issue No.: 571 | January 2015
 

Some Thoughts on Our Judiciary and the Media

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana
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It is observed that some times the judges in their enthusiasm indulge in extra-judicial pronouncements or judicial overreach that tends to reveal their personal proclivity to be either pompous or make remarks that sends a wrong message all round.

Background It is observed that in recent times the judiciary has been strident and assertive and it is a welcome sign. However, as long as they go strictly by the law of the land and pronounce their verdict discouraging a tendency among lawyers to seek repeated adjournments, it is good for the judicial health of the country. But, it is observed that sometimes the judges in their enthusiasm indulge in extra-judicial pronouncements or judicial overreach that tends to reveal their personal proclivity to be either pompous or make remarks that sends a wrong message all round. True, there is no illegality in such observations and even so it tends to discourage the enthusiasm of the executive and diminish its stature by imputing motives.

After all if the country has to develop on correct lines every institution whether legislative, executive, fourth estate and the judiciary have their assigned roles and they are not in competition to be one up vis-a-vis other organs of the State which operate with certain autonomy to take decisions. No institution has any authority to impose its will and influence outcome. It is in this context the role of the judiciary assumes relevance. Since the judiciary is the ultimate arbiter and final frontier for appeal for justice, it assumes in that sense pre-eminence.

Two illustrations

I wish to refer to two recent instances in this respect. In connection with getting back the black money stashed in offshore banks like the Swiss Banks etc., it was reported that the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Justice H. L. Dattu said ‘We can’t leave the issue of bringing back black money to the government. It will never happen during our times…Why are you providing a protective umbrella to foreign bank account holders?’ It turns out that the list of 627 account holders submitted to the Supreme Court was the same as the one given to the Special Investigation Team in June. If the government wanted to protect some people on the list given to the SIT it would have been different; but this was not so.

The second instance pertains to the observation of the Supreme Court under the jurisdiction of the predecessor Chief Justice. It was observed that the cleaning of the river Ganga would take more than 200 years! The evidence indicates that the present government is very earnest in approaching the task. As Narendra Modi pointed out in one of his speeches the lives of 30-40% people depends on river Ganga. Moreover apart from the health and cultural aspects, it has huge economic implications. Many countries have come forward to help and if there is real will, the river Ganga may be cleaned in 10 to 15 years. Modi has demonstrated his ability by cleaning the Sabarmati River in Gujarat.

When the Konkan Railway was planned it was pointed that British engineers had abandoned the idea of such a railway as in their view it was an impossible task. Yet under the pioneering zeal of Sreedharan, Konkan Railway is now a reality even if took seven years to build.

Judiciary’s Achilles Heel

It will be interesting to follow how our judiciary has been undergoing changes in attitudes over time. During the time of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi there was talk of a committed judiciary ostensibly to bring about social justice. Even now the same ideas are aired by spokespersons of the Congress. The corruption in judciary has been talked of by previous chief justices of India who put it at 20%. Former Law Minister Prashant Bhushan in September 2010 came out with a most damaging statement that 8 out of 16 CJIs were corrupt and he claimed that two former CJIs were among his sources.

If one takes the public perception, it is more damaging. According to Transparency International (TI) 77% Indians believe that the judiciary is corrupt. In 2012 India ranked 94 out of 176 countries in TI Corruption Index.

Former Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh who heads the Woman’s Right Initiative at Lawyers Collective, her observations in Outlook Magazine of 8 August 2014 are revealing.

"Inbred corruption and gender discrimination was often intertwined in the Indian Judiciary, indeed corruption has been sexualized”’

Elsewhere in the same article she writes: "Judges, bequeathed their cases to their sons who were practicing. So what can be posited as common in the two debates? The impunity that judges enjoy clearly foments the pernicious structure of hierarchy within, the culture of sycophancy in the legal profession and the near-dynasty that exists in the matter of judges’ appointments. One look at some judges’ predecessors will convince you that they are not only from the same class or social background, but also related with ties of blood. At one time, the Supreme Court had three sitting judges related to each other, with not a single demand to figure out how they all managed to get there at the same time. The legal profession has also become hereditary; children of lawyers becoming lawyers and the children of these lawyers’ children also bound to become lawyers. It is almost as if law was a business. But unfortunately, it is a justice-dispensing mechanism. This creates countless conflicts of interest between members of the judiciary. In India, we definitely lack a conflict of interest theory when it comes to public life; we are all brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts!”

True, in recent times efforts are being made to reform the system. For example the present government’s move to replace the collegium system for selection of judges is one such instance. Even so there is scope for serious introspection in the judiciary at all levels on the need to take steps to make systemic changes to ensure justice is not delayed. The task is by no means easy considering the huge backlog of cases and paucity of judges If today people still repose their trust in our judiciary it is because there are still honest judges.

Fourth Estate

Probably, India has the most thriving media in the world. Also, they enjoy near unlimited freedom. It has its faults and yet it is doing its magnificent work to keep the government in check. In fact, it has played a sterling role supplementing the efforts of NGOs to revive a few high profile cases and succeeded in courts punishing the guilty. At the same time we have heard of cases of ‘paid news’.

In the Radia tapes expose, some media persons were playing foul with the system. During the UPA government’s regime, journalists had field day and with free access to North and South block were privy to some political tidbits freely shared by ministers who had their own favourite journalists to sensationalize in their TV channels. The present government has barred access to the North and South Blocks and such kind of news has dried up. Nevertheless, it is amusing to see most of the channels showing ‘Breaking News’ whether it has substance or not.

It is amusing to see how different TV anchors monitor the discussion when they invite persons of various political parties or experts to air their views on any current event. More often they try to exhibit their knowledge of events rather than allow the participants to express their views. For example, when an issue concerning Pakistan figures one TV anchor is fond of calling the same persons from Pakistan and discussion goes on expected lines. It is not clear what earthly reason prompts the anchor to call them again and again.

The print media is another extreme. It is obvious they have their editorial policy but it beats me how blatantly one sided their views are. They have their set of political analysts who write to air their views to suit the editorial policy of siding with one political party or the other, It is another form of ‘paid news’. It is a wonder that despite internet and cellphones, the print media holds sway!

H. R. BAPU SATYANARAYANA is a freelance writer based in Mysore. 
Email: what_option@yahoo.co.in

The present government has barred access to the North and South Blocks and 
such kind of news has dried up. Nevertheless, it is amusing to see most of the
 channels showing ‘Breaking News’ whether it has substance or not.

 
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Obituary

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The Late unlamented Planning Commission

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Why China Wants to be a Full Member of SAARC

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The Tibetans’ Struggle for Freedom

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World Human Rights Day

 

Reflections

Constitution – an Instrument of Governance of A Nation: Austinian and Ambedkarian Perspectives

B. N. Mehrish
 

Some Thoughts on Our Judiciary and the Media

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Justice Delayed

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Threats to Upright Bureaucrats and the state of Investigative Journalism

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The Jhagada Dals

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Bharatiya Sanskriti Bhavans

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The Rural Perspective

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Book Review

CONFRONTING THE STATE

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ALTAMONT ROAD AND OTHER TRUE STORIES

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DEATH WASN’T PAINFUL: STORIES OF INDIAN FIGHTER PILOTS FROM THE 1971 WAR

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Educating Adults

Legalise Prostitution: Shift the Onus on the State

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Review of the Right to Information (RTI)

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Nostalgia

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Miscellany

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On the Medical Profession

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Satyarthi’s Nobel Gets Muted Response

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Nehru and Kashmir

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Defence Budget

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