Justice Thakur wept because Modi is deaf to his concerns for Indian democracy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t think much of ‘the rule of law.’
During his time as Chief Minister, Modi famously took pot-shots at the judiciary, which had exposed communal violence in Gujarat.
His attitude was no different at the inaugural session of the Joint Conference of chief ministers and chief justices.
Justice Thakur was brought to tears at the Joint Conference of chief ministers and chief justices
The strength of the judiciary depends on the money provided by the Union and state governments.
The new appointments are not being processed, and despite the victory in the NJAC case giving primacy to the collegiums in making judicial appointments, the files are not moving with the necessary speed.
The executive is never impolite, but always holds the upper card.
Modi’s haughty intervention: “Jab jago tab savera?” was both an indictment and offensive.
Who was to wake up? The judiciary? The Chief Justice of India?
Modi made the promise of an “in camera meeting” to resolve issues. Why doesn’t he resolve these issues? The judiciary is not asking him for a personal favour.
Chief Justices of India speak for the judiciary – and Justice Thakur was brought to tears because his concerns overwhelmed him, as they do the judiciary.
After Justice Sabharwal, there was a lull in judicial statesmanship. Although loose allegations against Sabharwal CJ were irresponsible, his successors invited questions.
Modi has been encouraged to work with the judiciary over the enormous number of pending cases
What if I told you a clerk once wrote a judgment I saw? Another, earlier Chief Justice, could not dictate judgments in court. They were incompetent administrators. Both were political appointments.
The advent of Justice Lodha changed things. He appointed two members from the Bar to the Supreme Court and sorted out many things. Justice Dattu carried some of the momentum, but not all.
Chief Justice Thakur rose to the challenge with great assiduity. The problem posed by him is pre-eminently one of resources. Given India’s 1.2 billion people, Thakur’s conservative estimate was that the present strength of 22,000 in the higher judiciary was not enough and there is a need for 40,000 – in other words double the budget to increase these numbers.
I would put the need on the basis of my research at 60,000.
The judiciary does not raise revenue. There are court fees, and of course stamp fees which are gobbled by the government and not credited to the judiciary.
CJI Thakur also wants substantive increases for the lower judiciary. That money will come from chief ministers.
It is impossible to get substantial funds for the High Courts and lower courts.
Thakur CJ recounted that the Law Commission in 1987 and a Parliamentary Committee in 2002 said that instead of 10 judges for every million people, the figure should be 50.
India is not a fair tale, the judiciary is not Cinderella, and Modi and Jaitley are not fairy godmothers.
So what can the judiciary do?
That is why CJI Thakur said: “I beseech you to rise to the occasion and realise, it is not enough to criticise. You cannot shift the burden to the judiciary… Inaction by the government and the increase does not take place”.
Chief Justice Thakur was brought to tears because his concerns overwhelmed him, as they do the judiciary
The frustration of the moment overtook him and he shed a tear, and this attracted the media more than the cause he was espousing.
So, the controversy became why did the Chief Justice cry? Or even, was it dignified for the Chief Justice to cry?
The question should have been: What was the Chief Justice crying about? He was crying about the impossibility of justice unless the executive was serious about solving it.
Till recently, the short fall in the Supreme Court was 9 and 464 in the High Courts.
There should be 20,358 subordinate courts. There are only 15,360 with a deficit of 49,938.
According to Daksh’s research, the average number of hearings per judge in the high court per day is colossal: 149 in Patna, 148 in Calcutta, 109 in Telangana and Andhra, Rajasthan’s 97 may be compared with Allahabad’s 77.
Hurried justice is no justice at all. These figures are abysmal.
Final hearings are reduced. The length taken to decide cases increases.
Judges of the Supreme Court hear cases during the day, write judgments in the evening, and read briefs for the next day.
What they produce is reasoned and closely argued. This is why the rule of law survives and lives on a tender thread.
We think the ‘rule of law’ is just a phrase. But imagine a democracy without the rule of law. Many such countries are failed states.
A major reason for this is that rule of law institutions are deprived of finances, resources, and respect.
Indians should begin to recognise that many parts of India constitute failed states – not because of Maoists and terrorists, but because of endemic decay in governance.
No account of false pride in India as a democracy can hide this process of degeneration.
If politicians and bureaucrats are the custodians of the democratic and instrumental texts of governance, the judiciary is the custodian of the rule of law texts.
As part of the rule of law, the judiciary’s job is to have the final say in interpreting the Constitution.
Parliament runs into rowdy sessions. The executive thinks it is a law unto itself. But the buck stops with the judiciary which is over-worked, underpaid but respected by the people.
A new mechanism for resolving Executive Judiciary is urgently needed.
Why did the Chief Justice weep? Not for himself but for the future of Indian democracy and lack of cooperation by the executive including PM Modi.
The writer is a SC lawyer
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