As eminent jurists here recommended more accountability for the judiciary, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday said a clean judiciary was the right of every Indian, adding that judicial activism was right so long it concerned human rights and was not on the wrong side of the constitution.
Speaking on ‘What Ails the Indian Judiciary’ at the Dr. K.N.Katju Memorial Lecture here, jurists also suggested setting up of independent commission to appoint judges to high courts and the Supreme Court.
‘It is the right of every citizen in this country to have a clean judiciary. Litigation in this country is no longer a rare occurrence. Judges have the power of life and death over citizens of this country,’ Chidambaram, himself an lawyer, said.
He said those who go to the courts go with the ‘hope and expectation that justice will be done’.
‘The least that they expect from the system is an honest judge, who will do justice according to law,’ Chidambaram said.
‘Judicial activism that set out to protect the human rights is on the right side. The wrong side of it does not conform to the text of the constitution,’ he said.
Referring to the apex court proceedings on Public Distribution system, Chidambram said that certain higher courts are over ambitious as they believe that they can solve every thing.
The home minister said that government was alive to the need to correct the PDS and tackling Maoist violence.
‘I firmly believe that it should be done by the executive (government) and the legislature with public support,’ Chidambaram said.
He said that America is faced with health care problems including Medicare and medicure, but he was not aware if US Supreme Court has stepped into this area.
According to him, not every problem facing the people could be solved through the directions of the court.
In his keynote address, retired Supreme Court judge Kuldip Singh said the recent reports of corruption in Indian judiciary were ‘disturbing’ despite being ‘minor as compared to various maladies challenging the Indian society’.
He said that the ailments inflicting the higher judiciary was still in the stage of infection and could be treated by taking recourse to complete accountability and transparency in the appointment of judges and the working of the in-house mechanism to deal with acts of wrong doing.
Kuldip Singh, who headed the Delimitation Commission, said that the appointment of the chief justice of the Supreme Court should be on the basis of selection and not seniority.
The former judge, who is credited with saving the existing forest cover of Delhi, said all machinations and tricks of the trade come into play when one knows that who will be the chief justice at any given point of time.
He said that it goes to the credit of the apex court that it never shut it eyes to the ailments inflicting it but was let down by the Lok Sabha, referring to the failed impeachment proceedings against Justice V. Ramaswami.
Former Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S.Verma, said that courts should observe the ‘Lakshmana Rekha’ of their jurisdiction and should not encroach upon the domain of executive and parliament.
However, he said, courts could not shut their doors on the aggrieved person approaching it. In such a situation there was every possibility of such a person taking to recourse to extra legal or unconstitutional means, he said.
He disapproved the apex court monitored sealing drive saying it amounted to usurping the jurisdiction of other instrumentalities of the State and ys governance.
Noted jurist K.K. Venugopal was of the view that the judicial commission for the appointment of judges should include leader of the opposition and certain eminent jurists, who are not members of the bar.
‘This will also help in removing the inordinate delay in appointments to the higher judiciary and checking nepotism,’ he said.
He said the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had already passed a resolution accepting the provisions of the Constitution’s 67th Amendment Bill, which provides for setting up of the independent commission.
N. Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, also listed the formation of the commission as an immediate ‘national agenda’.
‘One of the immediate national agenda should be setting up of the National Judicial Commission to make recommendations for judicial appointments in the Supreme Court and high courts and draw up a code of ethics,’ Ram said.
Film maker Mahesh Bhatt said that it was very important to deliver justice to the people who are in a hurry to unshackle themselves.