Whether it’s democracy, or a monarchy - judiciary is of a paramount importance. Thereby, a judge is always expected to be of an eminent integrity. However, Indian judiciary recently has come into limelight for some wrong reasons.
First, it was in January, 2018, when a presser was held by the four Supreme Court Judges against the then Chief Justice of India’s (CJI’s) ‘Master of Roaster’ power. Before that, it was the outbreak of ‘Prasad Education Trust Case’, which created havoc in terms of ‘Corruption in Judiciary’.
In relation to the existing CJ, Justice Ranjan Gogoi— it was commonly said that his Lordships is a person of highest veracity and, is apt for the Supreme Constitutional position. Since, the recent wave of sexual harassment accusations engulfed every small or big institution. So, it was quite evident, it couldn’t have spared the judiciary too.
It befell as a concern, not because of it being against the CJI but, because CJ tried it himself. What added a fuel to the fire is, the inquiry by an ‘in-House Supreme Court Committee’ led by Justice Bobde. Subsequent to which, critics became extremely cynical, contrary to the entire judiciary.Consequently, such people brazenly undermine the eccentricity of this issue. Reasons are—
Firstly, it’s not a methodical case of harassment. The victim is terminated from the services by the CJI. Moreover, there’s a separate affidavit filed by an advocate— alleging the ‘racket of fixers’ and a ‘conspiracy against CJ’. An element of reasonable doubt, hence, cannot be eclipsed.
Secondly, this issue has cropped up at a time, when every other institution is vilified by the party in rule. And, the Supreme Court is an only-institution remaining.
Thirdly, the allegations are against someone— who is already known for his bold-cum-strict attitude.
Fourthly, sitting CJ is one among the dissenting judges, who vented their resentment unambiguously to save the only reliable institution in India.
Fifthly, though ‘a bad character’ isn’t relevant, but ‘a good character’ has to be given a weightage under Section 53 of the Evidence Act. Whereas, in the instant case, victim (the disgruntled employee) is labyrinthine in a few criminal cases.
True that CJ shouldn’t have turned into a judge in his own case. Hitherto, we cannot emasculate the eventuality girdling this case. Some critics say, “The matter should have been tried outside the court”. What they fail to understand is, an ‘in-House Committee’ is a court within a court. ‘If you don’t believe on its probe-fair. You cannot ‘accept as true’ the Parent-institution either’. By making this issue victim centric-only, is to tear apart the institution of judiciary.
Let’s consider it; this sensitive matter shouldn’t have been handled by the ‘in-House Committee’. But, then who? Prime time debaters? Lawyers himself? Or, the so called feminists? Or for that matter, any other civilised forum? Choose among them. Remember however, if and if-only Judicial institution in India isn’t trustworthy. Then, no one else would be. For— it has the maximum standards of scrutiny, vigilance and also the susceptibility too. Thereby, you cannot put it on somebody’s mercy. Once you do that, you set a precedent to craft a dent(s) in its impartiality.
A former CJI, once in a conference said, “The ‘in-House Committees’ are as much necessary to the judiciary, as its independence. Once that’s given up. Independence sine-dies too”.Which, thus nullifies the notion of involving a third party therein& thereto. On the contrary, however, Justice Chandrachud believes, “Supreme Court should include a retired Judge in the panel. The victim should be allowed to have her lawyer, so that credibility of judiciary will remain intact”. Though, it seems quite generous. But; How far it would shake the credibility of ‘in-House Committee’ procedure of judiciary is a moot point; and, the inclusion of a retired woman Judge would raise a doubt on the impartiality andproficiency of the twin designated women Justices.
Yes, the sexual harassment cases shall be dealt stringently. One needs not to be a feminist for that. But, if same is posed against the institution of highest importance, the solicitation of greater cautious befits the procedure.Thus; the apparatus need to be meticulous. And, the possible reasonability should be grasped. Since, ‘Justice Bobde Panel’ also included the two women Justices— Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. Thus, the outcome shouldn’t be nullified on a mere belief that we didn’t approve it. Conversely, one shouldn’t allow the bias to prevail. When that’s so allowed, no human will remain there to judge another human. The adjudicatory mechanism has to stop somewhere, and an ‘in-House Inquiry Committee’ mechanism is there to serve.
Women do have encountered the atrocities in the past. But, why should we compromise the legal principle— ‘innocent until proven guilty’? It’s under this paradoxical influence; we don’t allow the fair trial. Hence, the victimisation of justice.
(Author is LL.M Scholar)firstname.lastname@example.org