Judiciary should encourage constructive criticism: Mukherjee

February 24th, 2008 - 10:45 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Calling for a change in “the old belief”, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said the judiciary should encourage “constructive criticism”. “A constant problem is that of reconciling the conflicting demands of judicial independence and tenure with the demands of accountability and essential levels of judicial competence,” said Mukherjee, while delivering the valedictory address at a two-day seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar on judicial reforms.

“The old belief that the judiciary was beyond criticism, as to its performance, has given way in many countries to a serious debate to ensure that appropriate levels of performance are reached, that continuing education outside the court room is accepted, that minimum standards of diligence, competence and ethical conduct are upheld, and that all of this is demonstrated to the community whom the judges serve.”

“In my view, constructive criticism should be encouraged,” Mukherjee said.

As for the mounting volume of pending cases, he said: “What is needed is infrastructure, the number of judges and the educated people.”

In her inaugural address a day earlier, President Pratibha Patil had blamed the trend of late among people to take the law in their own hands and impart street justice in view of delays in court cases. Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in his address had blamed the government for the delay.

Mukherjee said: “How quickly justice can be delivered is the test of its efficiency.”

Mukehrjee, by his own admission always a non-practising lawyer, quoted Motilal Nehru who headed the first commission on the constitution set up by the Congress party in the early 20th century, to buttress the point that “they cannot take away our fundamental rights under any circumstances.”

He also referred to what Motilal Nehru’s son and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had stated: “No judiciary, no supreme court can undo the sovereign will of parliament which reflects the people of India. The legislature must be supreme in implementing social reforms.”

Mukherjee, however, added, “Ours is a constitution of checks and balances, nobody believes parliament has absolute powers.”

Presiding over the session, Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ashok Bhan, took a dig at media for “putting the entire blame on judiciary” for delay in justice and pendency of cases in the courts.

“No one can blame the judiciary for pendency of cases for long and arrears. There is a lot of misinformation in the media about the state of judiciary and the status of administration of justice,” Justice Bhan said. The unprecedented increase in the number of cases without a proportionate increase in the number of judges and improvement in infrastructure are the main reasons for the huge pendency.

Seeking zero vacancy for judges at all levels, Justice Bhan said the Law Commission had recommended 50 judges per million population instead of 10.3 at present.

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