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CJI issues statement of silence

'Not the requirement of our institution for judges to reach out to people through the media'
Gogoi on Friday.

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 15.11.19, 08:51 PM

On his last working day, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi hardly spent five minutes in Court Hall No. 1 as he disposed of the 10 cases listed before his bench.

He issued notices in connection with all the listed petitions and briefly heard Supreme Court Bar Association president Rakesh Khanna and other members of the Bar wishing him a happy retired life.

With about 55 journalists seeking one-to-one interviews, Justice Gogoi issued a formal statement declining the requests, possibly the first time a Chief Justice has done so. It was “not the requirement of our institution” for judges to reach out to people through the media, he said.

The following is the statement:

“I am keen that you would appreciate that the ordinary freedoms are finely balanced in our institutional functioning. While you have the Bar whose members can exercise their freedom of speech to the extent of even pushing the boundaries of such freedom, the bench requires its judges to maintain silence, while exercising their freedoms.

“This is not to say that judges do not speak. They do speak, but do so only out of functional necessity and no more. Bitter truths must remain in memory.

“As a public functionary entrusted with onerous constitutional duties to discharge, the idea of courting the press never endeared itself as a choice in the interest of the institution. I chose to belong to an institution whose strength lay in public confidence and trust, earned not through good press but through our work as judges on the bench.

“In fact our workplaces are, by our functional necessity, required to be public places as justice is ordained to be delivered in presence of ordinary citizens to ensure that it is never far removed from them.

“In that view, our institutional connect and interface with the citizenry is proximate. It is not the requirement of our institution for judges to reach (out) to our citizenry through the press --- rather such outreach ought to be symbolic of an extraordinary situation, demanding an exception to the norm. I have always soldiered to strengthen our institutional values, and as part of such discourse I would not be able to meet your request for a one-on-one meet.

“This of course is not to suggest that the press has no contribution to make to the growth of our institution. On the contrary, good press is also a parameter, amongst others, that is known to be indicative of our institutional health.

“In such view, I do wish to put on record that by and large, the press corps has been kind to my office as well as to our institution during my tenure at the helm of the institution. Even during trying times when our institution was keep(ing) an ambush or two at bay… most members of the press displayed maturity and character, and exercised exceptional discretion to prevent canards and falsehood from clogging the news space.

“To me, those were times when the stellar role of journalists, as defenders of truth and democratic ideals, came to the fore. I am certain that my inability to join you for a one-to-one meet would be accepted with dignity that you may deem it deserves.

“Needless to say, once I am well into retirement, I will look forward to meeting you to talk about things (with) mutual respect.”

Around 5pm, Justice Gogoi held a videoconference with judges of all the high courts and trial court, impressing on them the need to reduce the huge backlog of cases in the country.

Somme 640 high court judges and 15,000 trial court judges participated in the videoconference, sources close to Justice Gogoi told The Telegraph.

Justice Gogoi refrained from making a customary farewell address at a function held for him in the evening by the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Instead, he confined himself to exchanging pleasantries with the assembled Supreme Court and high court judges, registry staff and advocates.

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