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FOR A NEW GENERATION OF HEROES IN COURT

A primer

  • It is because of their righteous conduct and commitment to the Constitution that some judges stand out.
  • The travails of judicial life have been well catalogued, particularly withdrawal from society and the financial handicaps that accrue, but there are several who have sacrificed thriving litigation practices in order to offer their services to the public.
  • These and others form the majority of the judges in our courts, and the few who are found to be otherwise need not discourage new candidates.
  • What the new candidates do need, however, is a gentle primer on what pitfalls to avoid while they tread the path with gavel in hand.
  • Lord Denning said, “Once a man becomes a judge, he has nothing to gain from further promotion”.

Power and Responsibility

  • Flattery is often found to be a useful tool, either to toady up to judges in the collegium or to be at the receiving end of obsequious attention.
  • As Burke said, it corrupts both the receiver and the giver.
  • The reward is the office itself, and any puffery is utterly inconsequential.
  • All judges should exercise independence. Even a puisne judge is a high constitutional officer in his own right.
  • There ought to be no hesitation in disagreeing with a colleague’s unjust opinion no matter the gap in experience or reputation.
  • Where the position becomes untenable, there is always the softer option of recusing oneself from the Bench.
  • Recusals are indeed utilised for less palatable purposes by less agreeable individuals, but those are aberrations not to be emulated.
  • It is important to be innovative. Digital screens and online databases have become integral tools to dispensing justice.
  • They must show character. Even if many colleagues have relatives practising profitably in the same court without demur or receiving empanelments from corporations and governments, it does not create a new normal. As Charles Marshall said, “Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to — when no one else is looking or will ever know — when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so.”
  • Judges need fear nothing. With security of tenure and constitutional protections, a judge can remain undaunted by external influence, least of all by the executive.

Conclusion

  • The true stars of India’s justice system are the thousands of judges who toil over dusty briefs.
  • It is they who will never make headlines and never seek it, but take a clear conscience and a straight spine to their well-earned rests.
  • For their sake, and for the sake of this nation, the time has come to induct a new generation of heroes.
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September 2022
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