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We are not infallible but we are final: SC

YK Sabharwal made it emphatically clear that when it comes to interpreting the constitution and law of the land the final word rests with the SC, reports Rai Atul Krishna.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2006 17:47 IST

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee may insist that as a law-making body Parliament is supreme but Chief Justice of India (CJI) YK Sabharwal made it emphatically clear here on Saturday that when it comes to interpreting the constitution and law of the land the final word rests with the Supreme Court.

"We are final not necessarily because we are always right – no institution is infallible – but because we are final," the CJI said, adding that it would be improper to question the court’s finality just because it is may have erred on a few occasions. He also expressed himself in support of the proposed judicial accountability Bill but with a rider.

"I have myself been in favour of such a legislation. But I must reiterate that the power to account for high and superior judiciary must remain within the judiciary,’ Chief Justice Sabharwal observed. “If you cannot trust the CJI and other senior judges what can be said? This system, after all, rests on confidence and faith," he argued.

The CJI made these remarks during his inaugural speech at a two-day seminar on ‘Erosion of values in the judicial system and its refurbishment’, organized jointly by the Bihar State Bar Council and the Bar Council of India. Two serving Supreme Court judges, a retired CJI and several high court chief justices were among those present at the seminar.

Justice Sabharwal said he had not found evidence to corroborate the observation of a fellow member of the bench that 20 per cent of the judges were corrupt. “I have scanned the records and I have not been able to conclude that we have such a high level of corruption in the judiciary," he observed.

The CJI felt the impression of a high level of corruption in the judiciary might have been created by the everyday experience of litigants in subordinate courts wherein they had to pay bribes to the support staff for many services. He said the SC and HCs were tougher in dealing with integrity concerns within the judiciary than they were without.

Chief Justice Sabharwal said the use of modern technology could go a long way in ensuring transparency in judicial functioning. "Even the marking of cases is now being done by computers and not be human hand," he said, adding that the use of digital signatures could help in expediting the delivery of certified copies.

The CJI said no other judicial system in the world was as overloaded with work and functioned under such forbidding conditions as the judiciary in India. Yet, orders in crucial matters were dictated on merit, not on the judges’ political leanings or on consideration of who was in power. The trend of many decision going against the government might continue, he added.

Calling for sensitivity in dealing with litigants, the CJI said adherence to the value system was necessary for retaining popular faith in the judiciary. The government, he pointed out, was a major stake-holder in this value system considering it was the first petitioner or first respondent in 17,000 out of 35,000 cases examined by the Supreme Court recently.

Chief Justice Sabharwal said the ultimate test of a judge’s performance was how he or she was assessed by the members of the legal fraternity. "If it is said of a judge that he or she did the best he or she could, this is all that there is to it,’ he concluded, while advising the members of the bar not to be unduly harsh on the judiciary.

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First Published: Dec 09, 2006 17:47 IST