SC judge hails Modi as ‘most loved Prime Minister’

By, New Delhi
Feb 07, 2021 02:54 AM IST

As the sitting Supreme Court judge was about to conclude his address, justice Shah, who hails from Gujarat, once again referred to Modi as the “most loved Prime Minister” at the virtual event.

Supreme Court judge MR Shah on Saturday described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “most popular, loved, vibrant and visionary leader” at a virtual public function to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Gujarat high court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I am glad and feel proud and privileged to participate in this important function of release of commemorative stamp of Gujarat HC on completion of 60 years and that too by our most popular, loved, vibrant and visionary leader, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai Modi,” said justice Shah at the beginning of the function, which had the Prime Minister as its chief guest.

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As the sitting Supreme Court judge was about to conclude his address, justice Shah, who hails from Gujarat, once again referred to Modi as the “most loved Prime Minister” at the virtual event, which also had Gujarat high court chief justice Vikram Nath, Union minister of law and justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and solicitor general Tushar Mehta in attendance.

The remarks by justice Shah left some former judges of the Supreme Court divided on whether it was proper for a sitting judge of a constitutional court to express himself in such a manner at a public function.

Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha told HT that such comments by a Supreme Court judge at a public event should be avoided. “These things are absolutely avoidable. As a famous quote goes, restraint is the better part of valour,” he said.

Justice Lodha added that he belonged to a different school of thought and practised restraint in his personal as well as judicial life, which was also bound by a code of conduct.

Another former judge of the top court, justice Gopala Gowda said that he was “astonished” to see a sitting apex court judge showering praise on the PM when the government was the biggest litigant in the SC and had the highest stakes in policy matters.

“Releasing of a commemorative stamp by the PM is a most welcome thing. But for a sitting Supreme Court judge, who is a constitutional functionary, to compliment the Prime Minister with such adjectives is unwarranted and uncalled for. The tremendous confidence of people in the judiciary will be eroded if Supreme Court judges start praising executives in this fashion,” he said.

Justice Gowda said that when a judge of a constitutional court speaks, they must remember that the credibility of the institution is at stake and people’s faith must not be shaken by their remarks.

However, justice BP Singh, another retired judge of the top court, did not find justice Shah’s remarks inappropriate. “He has not commented on any case in the Supreme Court. These could be his (justice Shah’s) personal views and he may genuinely feel like that for the Prime Minister. Why should it create any doubt? I don’t think it should become an issue,” said justice Singh.

Last year, Supreme Court judge justice Arun Mishra (now retired) courted controversy by saying that “PM Modi was a versatile genius who thinks globally and acts locally”. The Supreme Court Bar Association had passed a resolution criticising justice Mishra’s comments as “reflecting poorly on judicial independence”.

A Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court and high court judges called ‘Re-instatement of Values in Judicial Life’, was resolved in the chief justices’ conference of 1999. The 15-point code primarily recommends that a serving judge maintain an air of “aloofness” in their official and personal life.

Point number 6 of the Code of Conduct lays down that a judge should practise a degree of aloofness consistent with the dignity of their office. Point number 8 states: “A judge must not enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters or on matters that are pending or are likely to arise for judicial determination.”

In his address, PM Modi said that the Supreme Court had become “number one” in the world in hearing cases through video-conferencing as he praised how the virtual hearings had facilitated ease of justice by not only increasing the ease of living of the citizens of the country, but also by facilitating the ease of doing business.

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