Supreme Court judge N V Ramana on Saturday said that judges are now becoming victims of “juicy gossips” and "slanderous social media postings" as they restrain themselves from speaking in their own defence.
Justice Ramana, who is next in line to become Chief Justice of India, said that life of a judge is no better than others and there has been a misunderstanding that “judges lead a life of luxury in their ivory towers”.
Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said the freedom of speech of judges "is curtailed by the same laws which prevent people from saying whatever they feel like, adverse to the independence of the judiciary”.
They were speaking at the launch of book “Judiciary, Judge and the Administration of Justice” authored by former Supreme Court judge Justice (retd) R Banumathi, who had superannuated on July 19.
Their remarks come in the backdrop of the row involving activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan. On August 31, the apex court had imposed a “nominal fine” of Re 1 on Bhushan, who was convicted for criminal contempt for his two tweets against the judiciary, saying he has attempted to “denigrate the reputation of the institution of administration of justice”.
Justice Ramana said that the main theme of the book is the responsibilities and duties of a judge.
"Judges themselves restrain from speaking in their own defence and they are now being construed as a soft target for criticism. This issue is further complicated by the proliferation of social media and technology. Judges are becoming victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social media posting,” he said.
Justice Ramana said that from his own experience, he can say that the life of a judge is not better than others and even their family members have to make the sacrifices.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding that judges lead a life of luxury in their ivory towers. However, the reality is quite different and it is difficult for others to comprehend. Judges have to balance their social life, in order to be independent,” he said.
Justice Ramana said that he believes, in the present day, it requires sacrifices to be made by judges, unparalleled to any other profession.
The CJI said the judiciary belongs to the nation and its achievements are the result of “unflinching dedication” and commitment of numerous individuals on and off the bench.
He said that for judges and consequently for the judiciary, the biggest challenge is to ensure that the nation inches towards the goal set in the Constitution.
He said that an independent judiciary is ‘Sine qua non’ (essential condition) to achieve the same.
“It is not for the personal benefit of the judges but for the effective exercise of the power vested in the judiciary,” he said, adding, “In fact, even the freedom of speech of judges is curtailed by the same laws which prevent people from saying whatever they feel like, adverse to the independence of the judiciary.”
Talking about the book, Justice Ramana said that the book by Justice (retd) Banumathi symbolizes the immense experience she has gained for many decades and her insights into judicial functioning stretch over the entire judicial system from trial court to the apex court.
“She has worked tirelessly for 32 years, rendering justice and contributed a lot to the Indian judicial system. It is Justice Banumathi’s hard work and her independent thinking. She has always been a fearless and dynamic judge. She has vast experience on the judicial and administrative side. She has been one of the finest judges the country has witnessed,” Justice Ramana said.
He added that with her vast experience, Justice Banumathi has laid down for all judges a guide in which she had dealt with important concepts of constitutional importance such as the doctrine of separation of power and the importance of judiciary's independence.
“She has also highlighted the relevance of judicial accountability and impartiality. In the second part of the book, she enlightens the readers about the recent developments of our judicial system about the e-courts and court management system. She elaborates on how technology has transformed the justice dispensation system,” he said.
The Chief Justice of India also said that COVID-19 pandemic would present a “huge pendency of cases” in the courts and a lot of emphasis has to be placed on utilising mediation for resolving many of these matters.
The CJI, who said that courts are going to face a “flood of cases” once the pandemic goes away and lockdowns are lifted, also stressed on the need to devote energy to mental health and referred to the “uncomfortable prediction” that there might be a suicide pandemic.
Speaking on the occasion, apex court's Justice D Y Chandrachud referred to the dedication of Justice (retd) Banumathi towards the cause of justice and legal profession.
Justice Chandrachud, who is the chairperson of Supreme Court E-committee, referred to the work done by it and also provided data of cases at the district level during the pandemic.
He said around 28.66 lakh cases were registered at the district level in the pandemic period out of which 12.69 lakh matters were disposed of.
Justice (retd) Banumathi said the book highlights the various essential facets of judgeship and also gives a comprehensive view of the accomplishments of the E-court project.
Supreme Court judge Justice Indu Malhotra and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice D N Patel also addressed the gathering which was attended by several other judges of the apex court.