Why judges should make some noise
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.
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.
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.