Things moved fast under the tenure of Justice Lodha, as far as disposal of cases was concerned.”
Things moved fast under the tenure of Justice Lodha, as far as disposal of cases was concerned.”

“This phase in the Supreme Court is disastrous”, former CJI RM Lodha during Arun Shourie’s Book Launch

Ashutosh Gambhir

The launch of Arun Shourie’s new book ‘Anita gets Bail – What are our courts doing? What should we do about them?’ took place on Tuesday at Delhi’s India International Centre.

Shourie, who is a journalist, economist, author and former cabinet minister, wrote his new book in the backdrop of a false case against his wife Anita Shourie.

The launch was attended by the country’s most distinguished politicians, jurists, and journalists. In attendance were LK Advani, Yashwant Sinha, P Chidambaram, Justice Muralidhar, Senior Advocates Shanti Bhushan, Soli Sorabjee, Dushyant Dave, Arvind Datar,  Ashok Desai, and advocate Prashant Bhushan, along with G Parthasarthy, Shekhar Gupta, Siddharth Vardarajan and Aroon Purie.

The book was released by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court AP Shah, Senior Advocate Fali Nariman and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. Arun Shourie’s son Aditya presented the book to the panel.

Talking about the author and the book, Fali Nariman stated,

“It is almost every year that Arun writes a book. But this one is quite special. This book fulfills an important vacuum in public life.”

Nariman stated that he agreed with Shourie that the best way to fix the justice system is to analyse various judgments and publish the findings. This way, the protective cover of the judges will be broken.

The veteran Senior Advocate said that the provision for one appeal is a precaution, a provision for two appeals means panic and provision for multiple appeals means a complete lack of faith in the system.

Rajdeep Sardesai read excerpts from the judgments rendered by certain verbose judges. The language used in the judgment left the audience in splits. He referred to the example given in the book about the inability of even the Supreme Court to understand a decision of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

Sardesai said,

“Now you know why lawyers make more money than journalists. Lawyers and judges need good editors.”

After Sardesai’s reading, Justice AP Shah spoke at length about the problems that the judiciary is currently facing and the apt timing of Shourie’s book.

“This book could not have come at a better time. Most of us are only too aware of what is happening, and some of us talk about some of these things in hushed whispers or, occasionally, in loud voices. But Mr Shourie has done what most of us have not. He has put pen to paper, and in his own distinctive style, and with remarkable flair, ‘called out’ the judiciary and those who staff the system.”

He listed out various problems like a low judge-to-population ratio, a generally inadequate number of judges, poor infrastructure and an executive not entirely supportive of the judiciary.

Justice Shah talked about the delay in the Bombay Blast case, the Bhopal Gas Leak case and the Jayalalitha Disproportionate Assets case to show how slowly the wheel of justice moves in our country.

He agreed with Shourie’s suggestion that the media should perhaps send correspondents to spend a day every month in a randomly selected lower court and report on the goings-on in those courts that day. At least then, the general people could understand better as to what is happening with the state of justice in India today

Talking about the Judges’ press conference, Justice Shah stated that,

“Mr Shourie says that the four judges who held the press conference were confronted by Gandhiji’s notion of an ‘intolerable wrong’ and therefore decided to come out. I have heard many say that they should not have gone to the public… But it is precisely this culture of secrecy, which we have inherited from colonial days, that we need to overcome. When you don’t speak at all, everything is swept under the carpet, and the problem rarely, if ever, gets solved.”

Speaking about Justice Loya’s case, Justice Shah said that

“In my view the judgment in Loya case is utterly wrong and jurisprudentially wrong on many counts…Much of the judgement is spent attacking the motivations of petitioners who bring forward Public Interest Litigations, particularly politically- motivated PILs….

The court called it a veiled attempt on the independence of the judiciary. But how did they come to this conclusion – all that the Bombay High Court petitioners asked for was that the death of a judge should be inquired into. How does this become an attack on the judiciary?”

Justice Shah concluded by saying that Shourie’s book draws our attention to a lot of uncomfortable questions.

“I congratulate and thank him for having made us uneasy.”

Former Chief Justice of India Justice RM Lodha said that the book reflects how an open and shut case (referring to the case of Shourie’s wife) takes years to come to a conclusion.

About the independence of the judiciary and the leadership of Chief Justice Misra, Justice Lodha said,

“I want to talk about the present state of affairs where the independence of this judiciary is being challenged. As this is happening the CJI and the Supreme Court are being brought into the domain….

…In the past few weeks the Supreme Court has emphasised that the CJI is the master of the roster. Yes he is, there is no doubt about that. But can he do what he likes?…” 

He went on to say that the Supreme Court was no place for personal grudges, and that an atmosphere of collegiality must prevail. He further stated,

“The phase that we are seeing today in the Supreme Court, to say the least, is disastrous. Collegiality must return. CJI is the leader and he should take everyone along with him.”

Moreover, he said that if what is happening in the Supreme Court is taken as a precedent by the High Courts, then the day is not far when the judicial system of the country will become chaotic.

Speaking about the author, Justice Lodha said that,

“Arun Shourie has done a yeoman’s service by giving us this book. It has shaken me. I feel sorry that I could not do much… Everyone has to work really hard for restoring the efficacy and credibility of the judiciary.”

At the end, Arun Shourie himself addressed the audience and spoke about the turbulent times that the country’s judiciary is going through.

“It should not be perceived that I have a negative feeling towards the judiciary. It is only that there is a well planned assault on the judiciary. Not just by one person. But by an entire ideology which is totalitarian and which wants total control over the country.”

Shourie stated that the judiciary must thwart any attempts made against its independence. He also said that the judiciary should never think that if an attempt has been thwarted once, the work is over. ‘They’ will come in a different way, he said.

“We are being accustomed to a new normal. Children are being raped and the new deputy CM of Jammu and Kashmir says it is a small thing.” 

He said that the role of the present CJI is that of convenience to the executive.

“Any body who has to say again and again that I am the master means that he does not have the moral authority.”

Finally, Shourie urged all the senior lawyers present in the audience to directly discuss the situation with the Chief Justice of India and come up with ways by which it can be fixed.

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