Unelected people think they can impose will on govt through courts: Harish Salve
Noted jurist Harish Salve Friday said a lot of people who are not elected representatives feel that they can impose their will on the government through the courts.
He made the observation while asserting that one can criticise a judgment and even a judge, but attributing motives to them is wrong.
The senior advocate also said violation of privacy is a serious issue and that private data is a valuable property but Indians are not serious about it.
Salve, while speaking during a webinar on the issue of ‘Insulting the Judiciary from Social Media Diatribes’, said, “To say judgement is to favour a political party or judge has acted in favour of political party is wrong. Supreme Court is not a dartboard. You can criticise a judgment saying the judge has taken a conservative line.”
Salve said some people have got used to pushing the Supreme Court for relief.
“When they do not get relief from Supreme Court, they say judges are not doing this because of this reason... Some people are pushing the boundaries by saying Supreme Court deserves ‘F’ grade for its handling of migrants. I have been reading these articles. They are wrong,” Salve said.
“A lot of people who are not elected feel that they can impose their will on the government through courts. One can criticise that court saying that (in migrants’ case) either the court should have intervened or not.. but to say that the court is scared of the government is wrong,” he said.
He further added, “If I argue a case and I lose, I should think that I tried my best but I lost. But if I get a feeling that the judge did not not give a judgment in my favour because of ... what newspapers might write, then I am worried,” he said.
“’If a judge does not agree with me, he is dishonest’ - This tendency must be curtailed. We owe it to the system. We have let our systems down,” Salve said.
The senior advocate also said that one may disagree with the court’s judgment on whether 4G has to be allowed or not (in the context of Jammu and Kashmir), but to say that the Supreme Court has not stood with the people of the region is wrong.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul showed the way in the Supreme Court in the hearing, Salve said. ”He said, if you have no faith in us, you do what you want,” Salve noted. He further said that comments made by judges should not be reported. “‘Supreme Court slams so and so’ is a headline you hear a lot. We need a code of conduct for Court reporters. Media only should write these regulations,” he said.
Regarding the controversy on Justice Muralidhar’s transfer from the Delhi High Court to Punjab & Haryana High Court, Salve said he was not in favour of judges overseeing transfer of other judges.
“You want the reasons of transfer of judges in public domain? I don’t think so. I therefore wanted a National Judicial Commission, which is independent of the government and not reporting to the court,” he said. While talking about privacy, Salve said that the Nira Radia tapes were available with the Tax Department was a serious infraction of rules.
“Violation of Privacy is a serious issue. Illegally obtained evidence is allowed in India unlike the US. But the person who has obtained it illegally, should be tried. Indians are not serious about privacy. When push comes to shove, we have not stood up for privacy. We have to do that. My private data is a very valuable property. If you treat that data with less importance, then it should be tried with breach of trust,” he said. While talking about legal reporting, Salve said “we have a complete travesty” in criminal law reporting.
“Your investigating agencies are completely off the hook. It’s trial by media. Angry people need instant justice. The way arrest is being covered, it is made to look like he has been sent to the gallows. We have completely lost the soul of law of bail. Public trial is one thing, but a running debate with five panelists commenting is wrong,” he said.
He also said India must have tribunals for private defamations.
“I have suggested to the government, you must have tribunals for private defamations. Otherwise these hearings go on and on. In the UK, private defamation cases are completed in six months,” he said.
He further said the judiciary has a unique position. “A lot of frustration of the citizens on poor governance can be addressed by the courts is a perception citizens have. Supreme Court is no lesser than the Parliament or no higher than the Parliament,” he said.
Salve said if the country’s GDP has gone down by one per cent today, then the Supreme Court has to take some credit for that. “By closing down mines and a host of judgments… and these judgments are wrong in law,” he said.
“Reading the 2G judgment, Coal Scam, I am unconvinced on the law of what Supreme Court has done,” he said.