President Kovind calls upon judges to ‘exercise utmost discretion’ in courtroom remarks

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday called upon judges “to exercise utmost discretion in their utterances in the courtrooms” saying that “indiscreet remarks, even if made with good intention, give space for dubious interpretations to run down the judiciary”.

Speaking at the valedictory session of the Constitution Day celebrations at Vigyan Bhavan here, Kovind said that “in Indian tradition, judges are imagined as a model of rectitude and detachment more akin to ‘sthitpragya’. We have a rich history of legions of such judges known for their utterances full of sagacity and conduct beyond reproach, which have become hallmarks for the future generations”.

Stating that the Indian judiciary has been adhering to those highest standards, the President said “there is no doubt that you have set for yourself a high bar”.

“Hence, it is also incumbent upon the judges to exercise utmost discretion in their utterances in the courtrooms. Indiscreet remarks, even if made with good intention, give space for dubious interpretations to run down the judiciary,” Kovind said and went on to quote Justice Frankfurter of the US Supreme Court in the Dennis versus United States case of 1951.

“Courts are not representative bodies. They are not designed to be a good reflex of a democratic society. Their essential quality is detachment, founded on independence. History teaches that the independence of the judiciary is jeopardised when courts become embroiled in the passions of the day, and assume primary responsibility in choosing between competing political, economic and social pressure,” the President said, quoting him.

Speaking at the event earlier, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana flagged the issue of “increasing attacks” on judges “particularly in social media”.

Touching on this, the President said “it pains” him “no end…to note that of late there have been cases of some disparaging remarks against the judiciary made on social media platforms. These platforms have worked wonderfully to democratise information, yet they have a dark side too. The anonymity granted by them is exploited by some miscreants. I hope this is an aberration and it will be short-lived.”

Wondering “what could be behind this phenomenon”, he asked, “can we, collectively, examine the reasons behind it for the sake of a healthy society?”

The CJI, while touching on the question of pendency, said “legislature does not conduct studies or assess the impact of the laws that it passes. This sometimes leads to big issues”.

He said that “the introduction of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is an example of this. Now, the already burdened magistrates are further burdened by thousands of these cases. Similarly, rebranding the existing courts as commercial courts, without creating a special infrastructure, will not have any impact on the pendency”.

CJI Ramana also urged Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju to expedite the process of filling judicial vacancies.

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