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Since 1st March, 1999
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Judges, not emperors

Sir — The controls recommended for curbing judicial activism (“Judges, don’t run govt: SC”, Dec 11) and the decision of two senior judges not to pass orders in their aftermath (“Activism-wary judges wash hands of case”, Dec 12) would disappoint those who perceive the judiciary as the only hope for delivering justice in this country. Judicial activism may not be necessary in nations that have a proper administrative system and where the rule of law is implemented successfully. Sadly, this is not the case with India. The lack of fairness in State politics is evident in the manner politicians rail against court rulings that do not go in their favour.

Yours faithfully,
Amit Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir — The apex Court bench’s caution against judges behaving like “emperors” has not come a day too soon. Often, what passes off as ‘judicial activism’ is really judicial arrogance. Many judges tend to behave like policymakers, conveniently ignoring the fact that they do not have any popular mandate for doing so. Take for example, the Second Judges Case wherein the judiciary began appointing its own judges to free itself from the executive. Such a practice is not to be found in any developed country. It is high time a national judicial commission was formed (with the prime minister, chief justice of India, home minister and law minister as members) to be entrusted with the task of selection, transfer and monitoring judges.

Yours faithfully,
Ashik Mohideen, Chennai

Sir — It is good that the judiciary is trying to correct itself. The Supreme Court bench’s attempt to curtail judicial overreach would help in restoring some order. The constitutional scheme for division of powers must be respected. The failure of the legislature and the executive cannot justify judicial activism. The judiciary has its own flaws, the huge bulk of pending cases being foremost among them. However, at the same time, judicial restraint should not imply that petitions seeking to enforce the fundamental rights of vulnerable groups are disposed of without a proper hearing. Nor should the courts decline to intervene when the other two arms of governance act mala fide. The legislature and the executive must also try and get their act together. The purposeful conduct of the Parliament in the recent winter session is an indicator that this is already happening.

Yours faithfully,
Pranav Sachdeva, New Delhi

Sir — The observations of the two Supreme Court judges, A.K. Mathur and Markandey Katju, on judicial activism are bewildering, to say the least. The judges seem to believe that courts should not interfere with any decision taken by the executive or the legislature, howsoever unconstitutional it might be. However, the honourable judges should bear in mind that in our country the executive and the legislature often fail to uphold the interests of the public. It is for this reason that people have to approach the judiciary to seek recompense. How can then the courts be expected to close their doors on them? If protecting the rights of citizens and redressal of their grievances are not the jobs of the judiciary, then whose responsibility is it? If the judiciary turns its back on the people, there will be anarchy in this country.

Yours faithfully,
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow

Sir — It is my personal opinion that all judges must act as if they were principals of a good school or college. Just as the headmaster encourages and assigns responsibility to disciplined and enterprising students, so must the judiciary do justice to good citizens who have been wronged. If a politician fails to perform his duties, and, instead, tries to ruin the country through his corrupt ways, a judge must interfere to set the wrong right, even if a public interest litigation has not been filed in the courts. Media reports are sufficient for the judiciary to question some of the actions of the government as well as of politicians. The argument that the judiciary is interfering with the functions of the executive and the legislature cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — The Supreme Court has rightly pointed out that it is not the job of courts to frame laws. Lawmaking is the prerogative of the Parliament, legislative assembly and similar other bodies.

It is another matter — an unfortunate one — that nowadays laws are made not for the good of the country but merely to please sections of the electorate. It is commendable that the Supreme Court has realized that it is up to the people to bring about a change in those who are at the helm. This can be done through the electoral process, and there is no need for individual judges to try and bring about political stability in this country. However, at the same time, it is very disappointing to note that the government is free to pass bills and make laws that do more harm than good and all the Supreme Court can do about this is plead its helplessness. Ours is a skewed democracy — more dictatorial than democratic — where laws are not framed for the good of the people.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi

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