Mumbai, July 14: A “revolution, not reform” is needed to keep the institution of judiciary serviceable for the common man, senior Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, asserting that the judiciary would have to be more “pro-active” and on the “front foot”.
Justice Gogoi is the senior-most judge and is likely to be recommended to succeed Chief Justice Dipak Misra on his retirement on October 2.
Delivering the third Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture on “Vision of Justice”, the judge told a packed Teen Murti Bhavan auditorium in New Delhi that the judiciary was the “last bastion of hope” and has been “a proud guardian of the great constitutional vision”. The institution has been endowed with great societal trust.
Justice Gogoi, who along with Justices J Chelameswar (since retired), M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph had held a controversial January 12 presser in which a litany of allegations were made against the Chief Justice of India, also said that “independent journalists and sometimes noisy judges” were the first line of defence for democracy.
Referring to an article titled ‘How Democracy Dies’ published in the Indian Express, he said 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,” Justice Gogoi said.
He said that in the first 50 years of independence, the court has created a very sound jurisprudence which “we are reaping now”.
“It is the inertia really that has kept us going till now. But the way things stand today, court processes are a trial even before the trial has begun. While I cannot say if it is a collective failure on our part, but for a nation governed by the rule of law, is it not a matter of concern that to this extent at least, we are defying the idea of inclusiveness?
“Not a reform, but a revolution is what it needs to be able to meet the challenges on the ground and to keep this institution serviceable for a common man and relevant for the nation,” Justice Gogoi said.
He expressed concern over “inefficiency” and “slow processes” in the administration of justice which, he said, have been historical challenges.
“The judiciary today is not a poor workman who blames his tools, but it is a workman with no tools. I am not going to saddle you with the figures that we keep consuming every day on pendency, arrears and judges’ strength but in the light of what a French author had once said ‘Everything has been said already, but as no one listens, we must begin again’.”
The judge said for the effectiveness of the judgments to show, the justice dispensation system has to be made more result-oriented and more focussed on enforcement.
He made a reference of noted journalist and politician Arun Shourie who had suggested that he wondered if the judiciary was not being an “accessory to the resulting deterioration”.
“I find it difficult to agree wholeheartedly. But I will certainly say that the judiciary must certainly be more pro-active, more on the front foot. This is what I would call as redefining its role as an institution in the matters of enforcement and efficacy of the spirit of its diktats, of course subject to constitutional morality (separation of powers) again.
“I will even go ahead to say that the institution, at all levels, needs to become more dynamic in the matters of interpretation of laws. And, this is what I mean to say by a constitutional moment of its own kind. However, it is going to be a tall order, both at the micro level and the macro level, because both come with their unique sets of challenges,” Justice Gogoi said.
Justice Gogoi said there was a pressing need to explore the endless limits of legal services mechanism, legal awareness and legal empowerment of the marginalised in this vastly unequal society.
He said Ramnath Goenka had once stated that while civil liberties will have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, they will have everything to fear from the union of the judiciary with either the executive or the legislature.
“I would like to believe, this is why, Ramnathji had also said that ‘fierce independence’ is indeed the bedrock of justice. But I would like to add that ‘independence’ must always be responsible with due regard to the established constitutional values.
“This institution is the last bastion of hope and the one that the citizenry believes firmly, will give justice to them, come what may. And it has. The judiciary, with whatever little it has had at its hand, has been a proud guardian of the great constitutional vision. It fills me with immense pride to see that as an institution, the judiciary has been endowed with great societal trust,” he said.
India rejects US report criticising it on religious freedom
New Delhi, Jun 23: India Sunday rejected a US religious freedom report saying religious intolerance in India was growing under its right-wing government, setting off a new spat before a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
An annual report on international religious freedom released by Pompeo on Friday said Hindu groups had used “violence, intimidation, and harassment” against Muslims and low-caste Dalits in 2017 to force a religion-based national identity.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government insisted that no foreign country had the right to criticise its record.
Pompeo is set to arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday for a trip intended to strengthen ties, but already complicated by spats over trade tariffs, data protection rules, US visas for Indians and buying arms from Russia.
The US religious freedom report said groups claiming to protect cows – considered sacred by Hindus –have attacked Muslims and Dalits. Christians have also been targeted for proselytising since Modi came to power in 2014.
“Despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem,” the report said.
The report consists of chapters by country, grouped into tiers, in which India is categorised in tier 2. It highlights a 12 percent decline in communal violence compared with the previous year.
The controversial revision of the National Register of Citizenship in northeastern state Assam, which could land millions of minorities stateless, also got noticed in the report.
The foreign ministry however rejected the report, saying there was no right “for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.
Reacting to the report, the external affairs ministry said a foreign entity had “no locus standi” to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that “India is a vibrant democracy where the fundamental rights of all its citizens, including minorities, are protected under the Constitution.”
“We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” he said.
“The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities,” the MEA spokesperson asserted.
“It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights.”
The United States has sought to boost ties with India as a counterweight to China, and both US President Donald Trump and Modi have highlighted their good relationship.
However, India last week imposed higher import tariffs on 28 US items in retaliation to Washington’s recent withdrawal of trade privileges for New Delhi.
Pompeo wants to use his New Delhi trip to lay the ground for a Trump-Modi meeting at the G20 Summit in Osaka this month. It will be their first since Modi’s new landslide election win last month. Pompeo is also to give a speech on the future of the relationship between the two countries.
Civilian harassment on highway should stop: Farooq
Srinagar, Jun 23: Member parliament from Srinagar parliamentary seat and National Conference’s (NC’s) president, Farooq Abdullah Sunday said that security forces are “harassing” people on the national highway.
“When I was coming, I saw security forces were stopping people at several places on the highway. It should not happen, nowhere in the country, people are stopped at so many places, they travel freely on it moreover with peace,” Farooq said at Pahalgam.
Asking for end to the practice, he urged the authorities to ensure hassle free movement of the people on the highway without any delay.
“They (forces) should let people travel in peace on the highway and stop harassing people without any reason,” he added.
Local pandit beaten by forces in Qazigund
Srinagar, Jun 23: A local resident of Levdoora area of Qazigund in south Kashmir, Krishan Raina, a Pandit, was beaten up by CRPF personnel on Sunday and was rescued by the local people in the vicinity.
According to the reports, Raina, who has been living in the locality since childhood was rounded up by a patrolling party of the CRPF in the Levdoora area without any provocation.
“Forces initially questioned me for living in Kashmir despite being a Hindu. After which they started erecting bamboo sticks on me,” Raina is heard saying in the video.
Raina, son of Gopi Nath Raina, sustained multiple injuries during the assault by CRPF men, the front window of his car has also been smashed as well speaking about the incident, he said that he was on way to Qazigund market to get medicines for his ill wife, when the CRPF men intercepted him and started beating him resulting in multiple injuries.
“Local Muslims gathered around the area to rescue me. A man with begging hands pleaded them not to thrash me, however, they assaulted him too,” said Raina. The incident sparked anger in the locality and dozens of other Muslims rushed to help the Pandit man.
“I am thankful to the Muslim community who saved me from the hands of CRPF men, otherwise who knows,” Raina said. He also said that the government forces are defaming the local Muslim population, who otherwise are helpful and rescued him from the wrath of forces. The locals later took Krishan to the nearby hospital where he is being treated
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