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Judiciary Has No Power Of The Purse Or Sword, Survives Only By Public Confidence : Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
6 Nov 2021 6:00 AM GMT
Judiciary Has No Power Of The Purse Or Sword, Survives Only By Public Confidence : Kerala High Court
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While dismissing a couple of petitions alleging judicial misconduct, the Kerala High Court recently pondered over the significance of judicial independence in a democratic set-up. Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar was adjudicating upon pleas that sought directions to the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Kerala High Court respectively to institute an In-House Committee to probe...

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While dismissing a couple of petitions alleging judicial misconduct, the Kerala High Court recently pondered over the significance of judicial independence in a democratic set-up. 

Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar was adjudicating upon pleas that sought directions to the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Kerala High Court respectively to institute an In-House Committee to probe into alleged judicial misconduct against its two judges, when he commented:

"The judiciary has no power of the purse or sword. It survives only by public confidence and it is important to the stability of the society that the confidence of the public is not shaken."

For the same reason, the society is entitled to expect that a Judge must be a man of integrity, honesty and impeccable behaviour, it added. 

The Court also said that any conduct which tends to undermine public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judge would be deleterious to the efficacy of judicial process. 

In an attempt to cement its stand, the Court also recalled Article 124(4) of the Constitution which provides a cumbersome process of impeachment to remove a judge from office.

The fact that a Judge can only be impeached for proved misbehaviour or incapacity. after such intrinsic method reinforces that independence of the Judge is of paramount importance to sustain, strengthen and elongate rule of law, the single judge held.

It added that removal of a Judge by impeachment was designed to produce as little damage as possible to judicial independence, public confidence in the efficacy of judicial process and to maintain authority of courts for its effective operation. 

However, the Court emphasised that bad conduct or bad behaviour of a Judge needs correction to prevent erosion of public confidence in the efficacy of judicial process or dignity of the institution or credibility to the judicial office held by the obstinate Judge.

"That apart, the bad behaviour of one Judge has a rippling effect on the reputation of the judiciary as a whole. When the edifice of judiciary is built heavily on public confidence and respect, the damage by an obstinate Judge would rip apart the entire judicial structure built in the Constitution."

Thereafter, the bench traced back the origin of an In-House Committee, and reasserted that it was introduced as a mechanism to ensure that Judges do not abuse the trust the society repose in them.

"When the Judge cannot be removed by impeachment process for bad conduct and when such conduct generates widespread feeling of dissatisfaction among the general public, there must exist some other means to ensure that Judges do not abuse the trust the society has in them. Self-regulation by the judiciary is one of the methods which has been tried and adopted in other parts of the world."

The Court further reiterated that in a democracy governed by rule of law, the judiciary is sentinel on the qui vive to protect the citizens' fundamental rights and to poise the scales of justice between the citizens and the State.

Adding on, it was observed that independence of the judiciary is an essential attribute of rule of law and that the judiciary was entrusted under the Constitution with the task of keeping every organ of the State within the limits of the law, thereby making the rule of law meaningful and effective

Therefore, it was found absolutely essential that the judiciary be free from any form of pressure or influence which has been secured by making elaborate provisions in the Constitution.

"The need to preserve judicial independence assumes significance in the light of the complex nature of the litigation of the present day which requires not merely to interpret the law but also to lay new norms of law and mould the law to suit the changing social and economic scenario to make the ideals enshrined in the Constitution meaningful and a reality."

The Bench made a significant observation before concluding its judgment:

"...it is essential to remember that judicial independence and judicial individualism are intended not for the benefit of the Judge, but for the benefit of the judged."

It was also added that the very nature of the function to decide a dispute between two, in favour of one, is not only onerous, but one which is 'likely to invite the wrath of the other'.

Considering this aspect, the Bench highlighted that every Judge must be assured unequivocally that his legal decisions, no matter how unpopular, will not lead to personal punishment and that the only indignity he may suffer for error is reversal. 

The judgment was delivered in a plea filed by a man aggrieved by the decision in Maradu flat demolition case. The petitioner had initially preferred complaints before the Chief Justice of this Court and the CJI respectively, but no action was allegedly taken.

The petitioner thereby approached the Court seeking the constitution of an in-house committee to probe into the alleged judicial misconduct against the judges and to give him a copy of any reasoned order passed on his complaints.

Also Read: 'Will Have A Deleterious Effect On The Institution' : Kerala HC Dismisses Pleas Seeking Institution Of In House Committee To Probe Into Judicial Misconduct

Case Title: Mathew Z. Pulikunnel v. Chief Justice of India & Ors.

Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment

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