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Prashant Bhushan behaviour 'irresponsible', judges should 'avoid' politicians, tycoons

Justice Bobde after being sworn in as CJI on Nov 19, 2019
By NS Venkataraman*
In all countries, including the countries with dictatorial regimes , judiciary is considered as one of the pillars for maintaining fair dealings in the society. It is possible that in some of the countries which do not have the highest form of democracy, the judges may be influenced by the ruling coterie. However, in democratic countries, generally the judiciary is viewed as an independent, impartial and fair body.
In India, the judiciary commands a high level of confidence amongst the people in various walks of life. People think that the judiciary provides the best guarantee for rendering justice to everyone.. Any efforts to weaken the judiciary by attributing motives to the judges or painting the judges as biased will certainly weaken the judiciary and consequently the pillar of democracy.
In such circumstances, the comments of the civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan about the judges have caused considerable surprise, since any individual, particularly a senior lawyer, is expected to be careful in making remarks and posting comments and is expected to exercise utmost caution in the observations.
Prashant Bhushan tweeted a photograph of Chief Justice of India Sharad A Bobde astride a bike, and another on the court’s role in the past six years. Obviously, by posting such tweets, Prashant Bhushan has not behaved like a senior lawyer who should know his responsibility.
The fact is that Prashant Bhushan has been appearing in several cases in Supreme Court and some judgements have gone in his favour and some against. Praising the judge if the judgement would go in one’s favour and criticizing the judge if the judgement would go against, reflects a prejudiced mindset, lacking in wisdom.
The court was absolutely right when it said that Bhushan’s tweet gave an impression that the Chief Justice of India is enjoying his ride on a motorbike, worth Rs 50 lakh, belonging to a BJP leader, at a time when he has kept the Supreme court in lockdown mode. The court said that the tweet was a wild allegation based on distorted facts and termed it as scandalous.
Confronted with such a campaign by Prashant Bhushant , the judges had two options: One was to ignore the comment with the contempt that it deserves. The other option was to take action against the concerned person .
Prashant Bhushan seems to think that liberty to pass comments about others is unlimited in democracy. Liberty has to be conditioned by responsible behaviour
If the judges had exercised the first option of ignoring the comment, apprehension was, it would embolden every lawyer or any other person to make similar comments about the pronouncements of the judges, who have the difficult job of passing judgements on complex matters, where there can be divergent views. Such comments would inevitably create a bad impression in the minds of the people about the judges. It would weaken the image of the judiciary resulting in loss of its credibility.
Therefore, the judiciary exercised the second option and Prashant Bhushan, so that a precedent would not be created where anyone can say anything about the judiciary and get away with it.
Prashant Bhushan's controversial tweet
In India, the judiciary has several self correcting procedures, with courts operating at various levels. If one would be dissatisfied with the judgement, a higher court can be approached. Even in the highest court (Supreme Court), it is often the practice to create a bench consisting of more than one judge to hear the case and give the judgement. Obviously, this means that the judiciary only wants to be absolutely correct by giving scope for dissenting judgement and with the majority judgement prevailing.
Some lawyers in India have certain views about the socio economic and political issues. They don’t think it is necessary to be neutral. In the pre-independent days, there were lawyers who involved themselves in political activities. However, when they took political stands, they ceased to be lawyers practicing in the court.
It is not in the national interest to pass adverse views about judges in the social media or from public platforms. The judiciary system permits that, if one has a grievance about a particular judge, case can be filed against the judge too.
Prashant Bhushan is an activist and has been a member of a political party. He seems to think that the liberty to pass comments about others is unlimited in democracy. Liberty has to be conditioned by responsible behaviour and disciplined comments. He deserves punishment for making unwarranted comments about the judges and not substantiating them.
This incident is also a reminder to the judges at various levels that they have to be extremely cautious in associating themselves with various activities or participating in public or private meetings. We have seen judges participating in the meetings, sharing platform with politicians, business men and ministers, some of whom have been facing criminal charges in the courts. This is absolutely bad practice.
In the pre-Independent days, the country has seen judges who have refrained from even attending family functions and kept themselves reclusive to maintain the image of themselves as impartial and neutral persons. Such high standards are rarely seen these days.
Judges should keep in mind Mahatma Gandhi’s saying that a man of truth should also be a man of care.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai

Comments

Anonymous said…
What a lowbrow article!
Dr A K Biswas said…
Thanks for keeping me in the loop.
Spaces for citizens have been shrinking gradually. It's a cause of anxiety.
Anonymous said…
i find this to be rather naive writing. to ignore completely the context and nature of the tweets, is only expressing ones ignorance on the issue and doesn't add an iota of intelligence to the debate or bring any fresh perspective.
It is proclaimed by Supreme Court that Bench&Bar is two sides of the same coin.Mr.Bhushan being a senior member of Bar,he has the right to indicate the shortcomings in Judiciary to uphold Independence of Judiciary.He had rightly pin pointed the shortcomings and he cannot be hauled up for criminal contempt. It is like the fence eating gross.The present article fully ignores the role of Indian Bar,its right to uphold Independence of Judiciary.

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