Bench Needs Re­form, So Does the Bar

India Today - - BIG STORY/JUDICIARY - By N.R. MADHAVA MENON Founder-di­rec­tor, NLSIU, NUJS, NJA

Jus­tice V.R. Kr­ishna Iyer once said that the threat to the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary is more from within the ju­di­cial sys­tem than from out­side. Last week’s un­for­tu­nate re­volt by a few judges of the apex court against the Chief Jus­tice of India sub­stan­ti­ates his ob­ser­va­tion. The pub­lic trust and re­spect built over the years by great men who sat on the high bench have been shat­tered by the thought­less ac­tions of a few. Mean­while, the al­leged se­lec­tive al­lo­ca­tion of “sen­si­tive cases”, if true, is a se­ri­ous mat­ter as it af­fects the im­par­tial­ity of judges and in­tegrity of the in­sti­tu­tion.

If the pub­lic gets the im­pres­sion that the al­le­ga­tion of im­pro­pri­ety is not only against the CJI but also against the so-called ju­nior judges, can they be faulted? The letter writ­ten by the four judges also al­leged that the func­tion­ing of the Supreme Court is less than de­sir­able. Though the letter did not iden­tify the is­sues ex­cept­ing “se­lec­tive case al­lo­ca­tion”, me­dia re­ports high­lighted the role be­ing

played by some se­nior ad­vo­cates in pre­cip­i­tat­ing the ju­di­cial cri­sis. Re­cently, there was the spec­ta­cle of some se­nior lawyers shout­ing at the Chief Jus­tice in a lan­guage which nor­mally would have in­vited con­tempt ac­tion. The man­ner in which some lawyers dis­par­age the ju­di­ciary, at­tribut­ing mo­tives against judges on TV pro­grammes, un­der­mines the re­spect for the in­sti­tu­tion in the pub­lic mind. Bench hunt­ing or bench fix­ing is a game lawyers play with im­punity, ap­par­ently to get or­ders they want from the court. In this con­text, the Bar Coun­cil of India—which took the wel­come ini­tia­tive of in­ter­ven­ing with the jus­tices to sort out dif­fer­ences— would do well to hold an in­quiry on the role of ad­vo­cates in the en­tire episode and take steps to check this sort of un­pro­fes­sional con­duct.

No doubt, there is a need to in­tro­duce ur­gent re­forms in the ju­di­cial sys­tem to save it from judges who show ten­den­cies of com­mit­ting ju­di­cial sui­cide.

The first step in this re­gard is to put in place an ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem

as pro­posed in the bill in­tro­duced in Par­lia­ment a few years ago. Along with it, the Na­tional Ju­di­cial Appointmen­ts Com­mis­sion Act should be brought back be­fore Par­lia­ment, per­haps with its com­po­si­tion changed to re­flect what was pro­posed in the re­port sub­mit­ted by the Jus­tice Venkat­achaliah Com­mis­sion on func­tion­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

How­ever, no mea­sure of ju­di­cial re­forms will suc­ceed un­less a sim­i­lar re­form of the bar is at­tempted. The Ad­vo­cates Act, 1961, will not be able to com­pre­hend the pro­fes­sion to­day for it has grown too large, di­ver­si­fied and com­plex over the last 50 years and more. Me­di­a­tion and ar­bi­tra­tion, which have grown over the years, have very lit­tle in com­mon with the lit­i­gat­ing pro­fes­sion, which was the main fo­cus when the Ad­vo­cates Act was adopted.

The mech­a­nism for en­sur­ing com­pe­tence, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ac­count­abil­ity of le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers must be strength­ened with­out im­pair­ing the au­ton­omy of the pro­fes­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.