Judiciary today is a workman with no tools, says justice Ranjan Gogoi
Justice Ranjan Gogoi described justice, as referenced by the Constitution, as not something that is a standalone precept but an amalgam of ideals like socialism; democracy; liberty; equality; fraternity, to name a few”india Updated: Jul 13, 2018 09:30 IST
The courts have done their bit to uphold the “vision of justice” detailed in the Constitution, but such efforts have not really made a difference on the ground, where it is a “descent into chaos” with messengers being sued, shot, or simply not delivering the message out of fear, justice Ranjan Gogoi said on Thursday.
For the justice system to become more effective, the focus perhaps needs to move to the enforcement of the judiciary’s decisions, said Gogoi, who was delivering the Ramnath Goenka Lecture in New Delhi. The Supreme Court justice said he wouldn’t venture to comment on the role of the executive and the legislature in upholding this, but added that it would make for an “interesting” and “contentious” story.
Justice Gogoi described justice, as referenced by the Constitution, as “not something that is a standalone precept but an amalgam of ideals like “socialism”; “democracy”; “liberty”; “equality”; “fraternity”, to name a few”.
Terming the “vision” and the actual implementation as the “aspirational” and “operational” aspects of the Constitution, justice Gogoi said the courts had repeatedly sought to bridge the gap. Referring to multiple cases, including the NALSA case that recognised the rights of transgenders, he said that both in an “intimate private sphere of life” and in “matters of faith” courts have stuck to the principle that “societal morality is fickle, and not that, but constitutional mor- ality.. ought to dictate terms.”
Both the subjects mentioned by the judge have become more contentious than ever before, with, in some cases, local informal courts, religious groups, even mobs, taking the law into their hands. The court is currently hearing a challenge to an antiquated anti-homosexuality law and also the Ayodhya dispute (alt- hough it has made it clear that it will treat the latter as a land dispute and not a religious one).
The challenge for the judiciary, justice Gogoi added, is to keep trying to bridge the gap between the “vision of justice” and its implementation.
But there are other challenges as well, he said, including “pendency, arrears, and judges’ strength.” “The judiciary today is not a poor workman who blames his tools, but it is a workman with no tools”. There are other challenges as well. Justice Gogoi was one of four judges who in January went public with their grievances over how the country’s top court is being run and how cases are being allocated.
Without discussing that press conference, justice Gogoi said the judiciary will have to stay independent.
Channeling American founding father Alexander Hamilton, he said civil liberties had nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but could be at risk from the union of the judiciary with either the executive or the legislature.” As India evolves, the judiciary, which is “seen as a course corrector, a leveller, a democratiser of sorts” will also evolve, but it has to stay indepe- ndent, he added. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
First Published: Jul 12, 2018 23:20 IST