Are judges kings? No judicial activism please (A Legal Reporter’s Diary)

August 1st, 2010 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Parmod Kumar
New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) Here’s a staunch opponent of judicial activism from within the judiciary itself. Supreme Court’s Justice Markandey Katju seldom misses an opportunity to slam courts for stepping into the domain of the executive and legislature.

Referring to a case, he asked what judges thought of themselves. Are they kings who award compensation, direct the running of sick mills and set up monitoring committees as if judicial functions were being “outsourced”, he asked.

Then again, on another day, he said the way judicial activism was increasing, the next halt would be to “lock the government and the parliament” and run the entire affairs of the country. He said even judges of the Supreme Court must realise they have a limit to their role.


Praying for ‘amritdhara’

Can courts answer all your prayers? Petitioners seem to expect no less from the judiciary than ‘amritdhara’ - a medicine used to cure common ailments, pointed out a judge.

Recently, the apex court was hearing a case involving a paper mill set up by the erstwhile ruler of Darbhanga in Bihar. Over a period of time, the mill turned sick and changed hands. For the new owner of the company, it turned out to be a bad proposition and he ran into conflict with a local legislator who too wanted to take over the mill.

To save the day for himself, the new owner moved the apex court seeking relief. Justice T.S. Thakur who was on the bench hearing the case told the senior counsel that his client’s prayers were like seeking ‘amritdhara’.

He wants the court to appoint a monitoring committee, fight his legal battle and take steps to recover his bad debts as well, said Thakur.


Commercial arbitration? No thanks!

There are growing concerns over India’s judicial system lagging behind in commercial jurisprudence. The legal fraternity believes a sound commercial arbitration mechanism is a sure ticket to billions of dollars.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, speaking at a seminar, said way back in 1992 he had tendered evidence in the case of Sumitomo Heavy Industries versus the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC). The case was finally decided by the Supreme Court in July 2010, he said.

Another senior counsel, Praveen Parikh, recalled a conversation where in an international banker insisted that the arbitration should take place either in Paris or London. When Parikh asked why not in India, the banker asked: “If arbitration is in my favour, how many years will it take to get the money?”


Of what value human life

The other day Justice G.S. Singhvi lamented that human life has little value these days. He said even when a person cries for his life, everyone around remains a mute spectator.

Justice Singhvi said this while hearing a case involving the death of three college girls who were burnt alive in a bus when AIADMK cadres went on the rampage after their leader J. Jayalalithaa was convicted in 2000.

Singhvi took exception to the fact that neither in the trial court records nor in the Madras High Court was there mention of any attempt being made to save the girls.

Recounting an incident of a vender setting himself on fire in full glare of the media and the presence of police, Justice Singhvi said: “This is the value of human life today.”

(Parmod Kumar can be contacted at

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