Day after Hyderabad, Chief Justice cautions: Justice can’t be instant, loses its character as revenge

Deep Mukherjee
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The CJI was speaking at the inauguration of the new Rajasthan High Court building in Jodhpur. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal

A DAY after all the four accused in the rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad were shot dead by Telangana police, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said on Saturday that justice can never be instant and “loses its character if it becomes revenge”.

“Recent events in the country have sparked off the old debate with new vigour. There is no doubt that the criminal justice system must reconsider its position, must reconsider its attitudes towards time, towards laxity and towards the eventual time it takes to dispose of a criminal matter. But I don’t think justice can ever be or ought to be instant and justice must never, ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge,” he said.

The CJI was speaking at the inauguration of the new Rajasthan High Court building in Jodhpur.

Addressing the event, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the women of the country were “crying for justice”, and urged the judiciary to “rise to the occasion”. He called for a mechanism to monitor the disposal of these cases.

“What is important is that we have to continue to engage the fine principle of our Constitution, render justice in a timely manner... The women of the country are under deep pain and distress. They are crying for justice, and India’s judiciary needs to rise to the occasion,” said Prasad.

“We have to restore on a very urgent basis the confidence of the people ...(by) fast-tracking of these cases so that India’s stature as a proud country governed by rule of law must be restored at the earliest,” he said.

Prasad said there are 704 fast-track courts for heinous offences and others and the government is in the process of setting up 1,123 dedicated fast-track courts for POCSO and rape offences.

“In the law relating to women violence we have already laid down capital punishment in case of a victim being 12 years and below, and other severe punishment including completion of trial in two months time,” said Prasad.

The CJI, who spoke after the minister, stressed that as an institution, the judiciary must remain committed to making justice accessible to people by strengthening the existing avenues and evolving newer means to achieve an affordable, quick and satisfactory settlement of disputes. “At the same time, we must be aware of the changes and perception about the judiciary,” he said.

He said there is a need in the judiciary to invoke self-correcting measures. Referring to the press conference held by then Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurien Joseph on January 12, 2018, he said this was just a self-corrective measure.

“There is a need in the judiciary to invoke self-correcting measures. Whether those self-correcting measures should be publicised or not can be a matter of debate but I believe that the institution must correct itself as indeed it did during the time when this much criticised press conference was held. It was nothing more than a self-correcting measure and I do not wish to justify it. All the judges were eminent judges and Justice Gogoi in particular showed great pluck, competence, and led the judiciary from the front,” said the CJI.

“We have to devise methods for not only speeding up litigation but for altogether preventing it. There are laws which provide free litigation and I take this opportunity, in the presence of the Honourable President, the law minister and my colleagues, to consider why we should not have compulsory pre-litigation mediation across all districts in all courts. The only thing that might be necessary is that the result of pre-litigation mediation should have the force of a decree. If we can have that, I think we can go a long way,” he said.