23 April 2021 2:06 PM GMT
Outgoing CJI, Justice S. A. Bobde, on Friday emphasised on the quality of communication and the relationship between the bar and the bench for the fulfillment of the most important function of the judiciary to protect the life, liberty and property of the citizenry.Speaking at his farewell ceremony, organised virtually by the SCBA, CJ Bobde expressed, "One area which has attracted a lot...
Outgoing CJI, Justice S. A. Bobde, on Friday emphasised on the quality of communication and the relationship between the bar and the bench for the fulfillment of the most important function of the judiciary to protect the life, liberty and property of the citizenry.
Speaking at his farewell ceremony, organised virtually by the SCBA, CJ Bobde expressed, "One area which has attracted a lot of attention is the communication and the relationship between the bar and the bench. I am not criticising anybody and I am sure there are persons at fault on both sides. But an attitude of mutual respect is necessary for the functioning of the judicial system"
It may be noted that earlier in the day, the Supreme Court witnessed a face-off between a three-judge bench of CJ Bobde, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat and some members of the bar as the decision of the bench to take suo motu cognizance of COVID-related issues, while the High Courts were already seized of them, had come under criticism. Another bone of contention was the bench's appointment of senior advocate Harish Salve as Amicus Curiae in the matter.
At the function, CJ Bobde began by saying, "Since morning, I have discovered a new cause of becoming speechless – having a lot to say – which is contrary to the experience of not knowing what to say. I discovered that there are some things which one can say. I shall endeavour to say them"
"The system, the atmosphere is such today that nice words about one really surprise one. It is very heartening to hear good things about oneself", he said in response to the addresses by AG K. K. Venugopal, SCBA President and senior advocate Vikas Singh and CJI-designate Justice N. V. Ramanna at the function.
"I am not saying that we should be an association of people who pay compliments to each other and look over each other's faults, but it is on this communication and relationship that depends the fulfillment of the most important function of the judiciary- of protecting life, liberty and property of the citizens. As of now, much is wanting in the narrative, if I can even use that term...", continued the CJ.
He clarified that did not mean for there to be a "mutual admiration society", but that the bar and the bench "must work in a way which is harmonious, nourishing and fulfills the purpose of the system".
"For example, when we had joined the bar, we were taught that we must accept that, at times, the judge may not agree with you. It is not a reflection of your skill or your ability to persuade as an advocate, but it is human nature that people may not see eye to eye on every issue. In such circumstances, we must gracefully accept a contrary decision", continued CJ Bobde.
Stating he did not wish to "lecture' on these aspects, he added that he has had no problems, "except for occasional problems of an overenthusiastic argument".
"Having served at Bombay (parent HC), Madhya Pradesh (as CJ) and now Delhi, I can say that it is the relationship between the bar and the bench which is to matter the most for the judiciary in the future", he said.
CJ Bobde proceeded to quote what veteran advocate Nani Palkhiwala had written in his book 'We, The People'- "A lawyer with a well furnished mind alone can be truly a counselor at law; he alone can, not merely look up precedents, but guide his client along the path of wisdom, even of generosities which may appear irrelevancies to the preoccupied client. In the hands of such a lawyer, the law represents the application of reason to noble and purposeful ends."
Quoting novelist Walter Scott, he recited that "a lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect"
CJ Bobde also cryptically mentioned the issue of how the media and the social media interprets one's actions.
"We have been given a unique designation of guardians of the Constitution – by 'we', I mean both the bar and the bench. It is not just the bench's duty, but the bar also has the duty to assist the bench in arriving at the right decision. This is possible only when the bar is committed to the dynamic rule of law. Only then can the bar assist the judiciary, particularly in its service to the marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society", continued the judge.
"When I took the oath, I had not imagined the complexity of the task as the Chief Justice of India – the judicial side, the administrative side, the management of courts, the problems of the High Courts, the requirement of the bar. It takes time to understand. But there is no way around when you have to understand and do your best. The variety of litigation before the Supreme Court is dazzling, the arguments are the best as it it is the last court, the lawyers very capable and the standards very high", said the CJ.
He canvassed how the Covid pandemic required the judiciary, and primarily, him as the CJI, to learn new things about communication, and how they decided that video conferencing is the way forward- "With the help of my colleagues, particularly the E-committee and more so the registry, we managed to tide over the challenge"
CJ Bobde said that while sitting before a TV screen, being looked upon by a camera, speaking into a mike, was initially difficult to imagine, now they are used to it. "I must say that at least in a certain class of cases, video conferencing is here to stay", he asserted.
However, he acknowledged that there is one problem associated with the system which has created a new kind of inequality- The inequality which already existed has now been augmented because one's access to justice is now technology dependent; it requires one to acquire all the devices necessary.
"I am proud to say, having examined the records of the Supreme Courts across the world, that our performance during Covid was among the best. One indicator of it is that the Supreme Court did not fail to sit on even one day. The number of working days in the last year were more than they have ever been in the history of the Supreme Court", stated the CJ.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court's Artificial Intelligence Committee launched its Artificial Intelligence portal SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court's Efficiency)
As regards the adoption of artificial intelligence, he wished to issue a warning – that artificial intelligence is set to grow in the future and that it is futile to ignore it. "I remember when computers had just been introduced and people had started communicating through emails, there were some people wondering why? But when something like this is introduced, it catches on like wildfire and there is no way to stop it. Can you imagine that the post offices have been closed now and the government is wondering what to do with the buildings?! Artificial intelligence is in the same league. We will find ourselves at a great disadvantage if we ignore it", he said.
Finally, to the young members of the bar disheartened by the pandemic, he urged not to lose hope and to carry on- "Things will change. My heart goes out to the younger members of the bar as they are ones who need the greatest degree of encouragement"