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India's future CJI's 'deafening' silence on ex-CJIs' postings due to political favouritism

By NS Venkataraman*
Justice NV Ramana, who is next in line to become the Chief Justice of India, has said that judges are becoming victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social media posts. He was speaking at the launch of the book, ‘Judiciary, Judges and the Administration of Justice’, written by former Supreme Court judge Justice R Banumathi.
Justice Ramana further said that as judges are self-restrained from speaking out in their own defence, they are now being construed as soft targets for criticism. There is reason why this view of the judge should be read not only with interest but also with understanding.
The job of a judge is an unenviable one. When judgements are delivered, certainly one party would be the loser and the other party would be the winner. It is possible that both parties have a strong case from one point of view or the other. Judgement has to be delivered not only based on the prevailing law but also combining it with an element of perspective and such perspective may differ from one judge to another. This is an inevitable problem.
The judicial system recognizes this aspect and that is why appeals are permitted against the judgement of lower court to the higher court and more than one judge sits to hear the cases on several occasions , when majority judgement would prevail.
Further, there are also issues such as judges admitting some cases for hearing and dismissing some cases even at the first instance itself, which leave the losing party unhappy.
Judges are, sometimes, criticized for overreach by entertaining cases which come under the legitimate ambient of the ruling government and where the judiciary has no business to interfere. This, of course, involves an element of judgement based on the perspective of the judge. Nevertheless, there is considerable criticism too frequently heard these days about the judiciary overreach.
Today, since the credibility of the politicians and bureaucrats is low and people are tired about the extent of prevalence of corruption and nepotism in the government machinery at various levels, people have come to look upon the judiciary as the ultimate be all and end all of justice system in the country and expect the judges to undo the wrongs committed by government or non-government establishments.
In such conditions, people expect a very high standard of probity amongst the judges and they vent their anger and frustration, when some judges may fail to meet the expected standard from the people. 
People are certainly surprised that former senior judges have thought it fit to accept jobs offered by the government after their retirement
With social media becoming a strong and effective forum for people, criticism against the judges are becoming frequent and sometimes too harsh and severe. It is possible that most of such criticisms may be without adequate knowledge of the facts and with inadequate understanding of the nuances of law.
When such criticisms are made, judges are unable to counter such criticisms in view of the positions held by them. This is the reason for the anguish of Justice NV Ramana and the critical observations made by him.
While it is inevitable that the judgements could be subjected to different interpretations, fortunately judgements are implicitly obeyed without defiance, which is a healthy sign and reinforces the fact that, by and large, people still repose faith in the judiciary.
While judges have a strong case for voicing anguish about criticisms voiced from time to time, they have to agree that some of the judges have indulged in corrupt practices, got postings due to political favouritism, and some judges have also been punished for such unethical practices.
The recent incidents of a former Chief Justice of India accepting the post of governor of a state and another former Chief Justice of India accepting his nomination for membership of Rajya Sabha immediately after retirement have sent wrong signals and have considerably affected the overall image of judiciary itself.
In such circumstances, people cannot be blamed if they would start wondering whether judgements delivered by these senior judges in their pre-retirement stage could have been done as a matter of quid pro quo.
While one may not be surprised that politicians in power have offered the prestigious positions to the former judges, people are certainly surprised that these former senior judges have thought it fit to accept such jobs offered by the government after their retirement.
While Justice NV Ramana has expressed his anguish about the judges being criticized, his deafening silence about the behaviour of some of the judges cannot but be noted by people.
Judges are expected to be persons of truth and they need to be persons with care also. They should not only be honest and truthful throughout their professional life and after retirement but also appear to be so.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai

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