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No confrontation, says CJI designate
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 2
Chief Justice of India designate K G Balakrishnan today said that there was no “serious confrontation” between the Judiciary and the Legislature but said that let the issue be debated in public as something better would emerge from it.

“I don’t think there is any serious confrontation… judges always speak through their judgements. If they call it judicial activism then it is a different matter. Let there be a (public) debate on it which is always better in democracy and something good will emerge from it,” Mr Justice Balakrishnan, the first Dalit to become the CJI, said, when approached by mediapersons to know his views on his priorities.

He will take over the highest judicial post on January 14 when Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal retires.

Mr Justice Balakrishnan, who will have quite a longer tenure of three years and four months, spoke on variety off issues confronting the judiciary and listed reduction of huge backlog of pending cases as his top priority.

The Judiciary did not do anything on its own as people approached it when they felt they were being wronged and it was the duty of judges to adjudicate upon the issue as per the law laid down, said Mr Justice Balakrishnan, whose appointment as CJI was formally notified by the government today.

He admitted that there was “judicial activism” in the country but stated that his views on it were different than perceived generally. In his opinion, judicial activism was in protecting the forest from depletion and stop illegal mining, on which the judiciary has done fairly well.

On the Judges Inquiry Bill introduced in Parliament to establish National Judicial Council (NJC) to probe the “misconduct” and professional “incapacity” of a Supreme Court and High Court judges, he though refused to “welcome” the move but said “judges are not above board“.

“There is no question of welcoming this. Let us see how they (government) do it,” he said.

He felt an immediate need of creating of more courts and appointment of additional judges in lower judiciary if the burden of cases had to be brought down and reminded the government that it would have to give a serious thought to it. “It is a very serious matter and has to be dealt on priority.”

He, however, refused to comment on reservation though himself being from the Dalit community, saying it was an issue which had been come to the court time and again and he would be adjudicating upon it. “In view of this, I should not be commenting on it,” Mr Justice Balakrishnan said.

He was not happy with the present system of investigation being adopted by the CBI and their handling of cases, saying the agency followed a “long procedure” of probe that delay the decision in various sensitive cases, including those against politicians.

The CJI designate also wanted that the number of “special CBI courts” should be increased so that the cases handled by the agency were disposed of fast.

On the latest development of various high-profile cases falling flat in trial court, Mr Justice Balakrishnan did not agree that it was a recent phenomena. “There had always been reversal of trial court judgements in at least 10 to 15 per cent cases by high courts in appeal, nothing unusual should be read in it. In murder cases the punishment is either death or life there is no third alternative,” he said when his attention was drawn to Jessica Lall and Priyadarshani Mattoo cases.

But he admitted that there was need to take a kind of measure to overcome the problem of witnesses turning hostile and the best course would be to get the evidence of witnesses recorded by a Magistrate, which would be a valid evidence.

He also was of the view that the police should seriously investigate the mass murder of children in Nithari village in Noida terming it “shocking and a very serious crime”.

Though he refused to express any clear opinion on capital punishment, he said so long it was in the law book, the courts had to decide to award death sentence as per the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.

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