New Delhi: Taking a grim view of unrestrained criticism of judges on social media for some of their judicial actions, Chief Justice of India designate Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde has said that it bothers him when he sees judges feeling ‘harassed’ and finds the attack difficult to ignore.
Justice Bobde, who will assume charge November 18 as the 47th Chief Justice of India, also said the unrestricted criticism was not only scandalising but also tearing apart judges’ reputations.
Criticism of judges instead of their judgements including on social media is actually an offence of ‘defamation’, SA Bobde, 63, said during a wide-ranging interview with this agency.
Asked whether criticism of judges bothers him, Justice Bobde said, “To an extent. Yes. It bothers me. That it might affect the performance of courts and I see judges who feel harassed. To that extent it bothers me. Nobody likes it. Everybody is not thick-skinned enough to ignore. Judges are also normal human beings.”
SA Bobde however, said that at the moment, the apex court cannot do anything to address the uncontrolled criticism on social media platforms.
“What can we do? We cannot do anything to this kind of media as of now. We don’t know what steps to take. They are not only scandalizing but tearing apart people’s and judges’ reputations,” stated Bobde and sarcastically added, “On top of that, there is a grievance that there is no freedom of speech. Criticising the judge and not judgement is defamation.”
Justice Bobde who will have a tenure of 18 months said the highest priority of any judicial system has to be dispensation of timely justice as it can neither be ‘unduly delayed’ nor ‘unduly hurried’.
An undue delay in justice delivery could result in increase in crime and it could also result in erosion of the rule of law, pointed out Justice Bobde.
Justice Bobde said the government is ‘very alive’ to the needs of the judiciary like lack of infrastructure and that the Centre as well as the State governments is making adequate provisions for this. He said it is high time the judiciary resorts to modern functioning, including artificial intelligence for dispensation of justice, as it would aid judges in delivering speedy justice.
“The highest priority of any judicial system has to be justice and at no cost it can be sacrificed for anything else because that is the reason for existence of courts and if that is sacrificed, rest does not matter; only goal is justice. In that process, you have to ensure that it is delivered in reasonable time,” Justice Bobde asserted.
“We cannot have instant justice. Instant justice has very bad connotation in this world. So justice cannot be unduly delayed and it cannot be unduly hurried. It must come in due time because we have seen that undue delay in delivery of justice can result in increase in crime,” pointed out the CJI-designate.
“In the course of functioning, it is high time that we resort to modern functioning including artificial intelligence for dispensation, not to substitute a judge, not to substitute a judge’s discretion but to aid a judge in speedy and accurate justice,” he said.
Asked whether there is a move by the Supreme Court to have a permanent five-judge Constitution bench to deal with questions of vital importance, Justice Bobde said incumbent CJI Ranjan Gogoi has some thoughts on this. “Let’s see how I will look into it. You can say that the Supreme Court is likely to have permanent bench,” informed Justice Bobde.
Asked how he unwinds after marathon and surcharged hearings in cases like Ayodhya where tempers run high among lawyers, Justice Bobde gave a cryptic response and said: “I forget it the moment I get up from the seat. I simply forget it.”
Justice Bobde is part of the 5-judge Constitution bench that is expected to give its keenly awaited Ayodhya verdict in the next few days.