Friday, February 12, 2010

CJI Balakrishnan speaks like a politician, is this independence of judiciary?

The chief justice of India does not think the case fit for having Indian citizens access to supreme court bench nearer to where they stay. They must come to SC in Delhi because – hold your breath – that is the capital of India!

NEW DELHI: Virtually slamming the Law Commission's radical recommendation for a Supreme Court each in four regions for easy access to litigants and fight pendency, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Saturday warned that such a move could lead to disintegration of SC's authority.

Oh pleeeaaase… with Mr Prashant Bhushan of CJAR asserting “half of previous 16 chief justices of India were corrupt”, the aam aadmi citizen does not give high value on a concept called SC authority. As far as disintegration of SC authority is concerned, that has already happened starting with when Justice D V Shylendra Kumar had said that CJI cannot speak for HC judges in matter of declaration of assets by judges; and further recently when Delhi HC bench also gave judgment that Supreme Court cannot escape purview of RTI.

Speaking at the inaugural R K Jain Memorial Lecture on "Towards Holistic Restructuring of the Supreme Court of India", the CJI said: "I am not in favour of the disintegration of the Supreme Court. Personally, I feel the SC cannot be in any other part of India. This is the highest court of the land and should be in the capital city of the country. It is in the capital city of the land."

Mr CJI, with all due respect this is not about personal opinion of a CJI. The Lok Sabha can be in Delhi being capital city, because only 545 legislators need to travel to Delhi to be present for law making and other parliament’s business. But the 1.3 crore and counting population of India can be better served if there were more SC benches closer to where they stayed. They don’t need to be reminded that they were not fortunate enough to be born in Delhi or closer to Delhi.

"It is a final court and we should maintain the integrity of the Supreme Court," Justice Balakrishnan said, while agreeing with the suggestion of senior advocate K K Venugopal that there could be an additional appellate court in between the high courts and the Supreme Court.

The CJI said there was nothing wrong in attempting to restructure the functioning of the three-tier justice delivery mechanism but the Supreme Court should not be allowed to be disintegrated. Another speaker, senior advocate A M Singhvi, also agreed with the CJI that there should not be furcation of the apex court on a regional basis.

Though the filing of cases in the apex court was rising at an alarming rate and pendency was mounting despite increase in the sanctioned strength from 26 to 31 judges, the CJI was against crowding the apex court with more judges.

"It is not possible for the Supreme Court to handle that much of cases and it is also not possible to increase the strength of the judges in the Supreme Court. As a national court, I feel that 31 judges are slightly on the higher side," he said.

Of course, once the ‘learned people’ make up their mind that there can be only 1 SC, and only 1 SC building in Delhi which cannot expand upwards or sideways, then obviously there will be limitation on number of SC judges.

"We don't agree to increase the number of judges anymore and it is also not possible to reduce its jurisdiction," he said and cited examples from the US, the UK and other countries where the top courts have only 10 to 15 judges.

And what is the population of US and UK compared to India? Should we reduce the number of MPs also from 545 to some lower number being closer to that in US or UK? What about 1.3 billion people who have to depend on 31 judges of SC for justice?

Unfortunately, the whole drama seems to be of concentrating power of judiciary at the centre of power of executive in Delhi. With credibility of SC going down especially in recent times, it is highly suspect if the real reason is not to allow future SC judges in newly created SC benches to go their own way against corruption in judiciary. A concentration of highest seat of judiciary close to highest seat of executive, and centre of political hobnobbing can only give rise to such suspicions.

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