Denouncing the “increasing indifference to decorum” in courts, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in his farewell address to judges of High Courts and subordinate Courts on Friday asked them to sternly deal with “rank hooliganism and intimidatory behaviour” which he said “has become the order of the day in some pockets of our court system”.
With just days left for his retirement, CJI Gogoi declined requests from the media for interviews, saying that “the bench requires its judges to ‘maintain’ silence while exercising their freedoms” and “it is not the requirement” of the judiciary to reach citizens through the press except in an extraordinary situation. Later, at a farewell organised for him by the Supreme Court Bar Association, CJI Gogoi, in a departure from the norm, chose not to deliver a speech.
In his address to judges via videoconferencing, the CJI strongly deprecated the increasing lack of decorum in courts. Without naming any section, he said that “rank hooliganism and intimidatory behaviour has become the order of the day in some pockets of our court system”.
“As an institution, we have tried to deliver much more than what is reasonably possible, yet, today each of us is required to deal with new challenges, which unfortunately arise from within and outside of our court complexes and our judicial processes. Within our court complexes, there is an increasing indifference to the decorum and discipline that were always the hallmark of our institution. Sadly, such indifference lies more amongst some of the stakeholders who are part of the justice delivery infrastructure, yet are completely indifferent to its health and progress... This has to be acknowledged, so that its vicious designs are defeated and the glory of our institution stands uncompromised,” he said.
Calling upon judicial officers to deal with such conduct, he said, “It certainly is not your business to suffer the belligerence of a handful, who may masquerade as stakeholders but are hostile to legitimate processes and would go to any length to brow-beat the seekers of truth and justice before us.”
CJI Gogoi also called upon High Courts to “shake off the sense of any inertia and play an active part as the true guardian of all court complexes under their jurisdiction as well as of the judicial process, besides safeguarding the well-being of our judges and the magistrates there”.
He added, “As an institution, it is time that we heavily invest in vigilance functions that would keep our court complexes, our judicial processes, our judges and our staff safe from the clutches of such local influences who do not have any allegiance to our institution but use our processes to carry out their nefarious designs”.
He responded to criticism that the Indian judiciary was a remnant of the Raj and emphasised that “our legal system is not only Indian but is it also has its roots deeply embedded in the common aspirations that binds all of our countrymen to a single destiny”.
The speech also touched upon the question of pendency, and said that “young judges need to work hard towards refining their skills and capabilities to improve the quality of justice, rather than to be troubled by this perception of pendency”.
In a statement issued in response to requests from journalists seeking one-on-one meets, the CJI said, “I’m keen that you would appreciate that the ordinary freedoms are finely balanced in our institutional functioning —- while you have the Bar whose members can exercise their freedom of speech to the extent of even pushing the boundaries of such freedom, the Bench requires its judges to ‘maintain’ silence, while exercising their freedoms.”
He added, “This is not to say that judges do not speak. They do speak, but do so only out of functional necessity, and no more. Bitter truths must remain in memory.”
“It is not the requirement of out institution for judges to reach to our citizenry through the press - rather, such outreach ought to be symbolic of an extraordinary situation demanding an exception to the norm,” he said.
CJI Gogoi is set to demit office on November 17.