Why judges should make some noise

Governance Now - - CLOSING -

At the Third Ram­nath Goenka Me­mo­rial Lec­ture on July 12, Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi, set to be the next chief jus­tice of In­dia, spoke on The Vi­sion of Jus­tice. He high­lighted the huge dis­par­ity be­tween In­dia as a vi­sion and In­dia in the re­al­ity of its poor and how noisy judges and in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists could do much to make the re­al­ity match the vi­sion. Ex­cerpts from his lec­ture:

Dis­par­ity of two Indias

in his last ad­dress to the con­stituent as­sem­bly, dr. ambed­kar had said that we must not only be a po­lit­i­cal democ­racy but a so­cial democ­racy as the for­mer can­not last un­less lies at the base of it the for­mer. and, so­cial democ­racy, he de­fined, as a way of life which recog­nises lib­erty, equal­ity, fra­ter­nity as one prin­ci­ple. i wouldn’t want to wade into know­ing if we are a suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal democ­racy, but, i do, earnestly be­lieve, that we are a so­cial democ­racy, in all aspects. But again, largely ju­rispru­den­tially. and the dis­par­ity is there be­cause the two indias – both just as per­cep­ti­ble – are at con­flict. There is an in­dia that be­lieves that it is the new or­der and there is an in­dia that lives be­low a ridicu­lously drawn Poverty line on daily wages in night shel­ters with no ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion or health­care, let alone ac­cess to the courts of law. The am­biva­lence is in­trigu­ing. and, this is ex­actly what i call as get­ting lost in trans­la­tion. one in­dia in the afore­men­tioned per­spec­tive is the Vi­sion and to know how far we have suc­ceeded in at­tain­ing this Vi­sion of Jus­tice is re­ally a mat­ter of per­cep­tion. But nev­er­the­less, there is a graphic dis­par­ity right there and re­mov­ing this dis­par­ity will be the mis­sion for the in­dian Ju­di­ciary in the times to come. and if i may add, for that to hap­pen, it is go­ing to re­quire a “con­sti­tu­tional mo­ment” of its own kind in the life of this in­sti­tu­tion, which i be­lieve has been long over­due.

Noisy judges

on the 19 th June, The in­dian ex­press had pub­lished a very in­sight­ful ar­ti­cle (se­lected from The econ­o­mist) ti­tled as ‘How democ­racy dies”.

it said, at one place, that, “…in­de­pen­dent judges and noisy jour­nal­ists are democ­racy’s first line of de­fence…re­ports of the death of democ­racy are greatly ex­ag­ger­ated. But, the least bad sys­tem of gov­ern­ment ever de­vised is in trou­ble. it needs de­fend­ers.” i agree but will only sug­gest a slight mod­i­fi­ca­tion in to­day’s con­text – not only in­de­pen­dent judges and noisy jour­nal­ists, but even in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists and some­times noisy judges.

The vi­sion of jus­tice

Jus­tice is not some­thing that is a stand­alone pre­cept but an amal­gam of other ideals like “so­cial­ism”; “democ­racy”; “lib­erty”; “equal­ity”; “fra­ter­nity”, to name a few. They are not iso­lated si­los be­cause their undy­ing en­deav­our is to es­tab­lish one dis­ci­pline – of over­all jus­tice, of an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety. and, this is ex­actly what i meant by the Form Prin­ci­ples of Jus­tice as an ideal. as a com­pos­ite unit called Jus­tice, these had been in­tended to be achieved by the l eg­is­la­ture, the ex­ec­u­tive and the Ju­di­ciary.

Fiercely in­de­pen­dent

The ju­di­ciary, with what­ever lit­tle it has had at its hand, has been a proud guardian of the great con­sti­tu­tional vi­sion.i will only say that if it wishes to pre­serve its mo­ral and in­sti­tu­tional lever­age, it must re­main un­con­tam­i­nated…. and, in­de­pen­dent. And, fierce. And, at all times. a chain is only as strong as its weak­est link. so is an in­sti­tu­tion. and if in­tro­spec­tion is where we have to be­gin, we might as well be­gin there. Per­haps, we can hope and en­deav­our that in the fu­ture, it is not our fi­nal­ity, but re­ally our in­fal­li­bil­ity that should de­fine us. it is my imag­i­na­tion of an ideal world and i am aware of what carl Jung had said of it. He had had said that, “ev­ery form of ad­dic­tion is bad, no mat­ter whether the nar cotic be al­co­hol, mor­phine or ide­al­ism.” i don’t know how true his view holds on other counts, but as far as ide­al­ism is con­cerned, i would say, it should be pur­sued like an ax­iom.

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