M A I N   N E W S

Don’t overstep limit, PM to judiciary
Tribune News Service

Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda greet Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the inauguration of the conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday.
Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda greet Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the inauguration of the conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, April 8
Pointing out that the dividing line between judicial activism and judicial overreach is thin, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that all organs of the state must respect the roles and functions of others and cautiously exercise powers accorded to them.

Inaugurating a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts on ‘Administration of Justice on Fast Track,’ the Prime Minister said public interest litigations (PILs) have great utility in initiating corrective action but these cannot become vehicles for settling political scores. “We need standards and benchmarks for screening so that only genuine PILs with a justiciable cause of action based on judicially manageable standards are taken up. This will also ensure consistency in judicial pronouncements”. He suggested that the Supreme Court could take a lead in framing rules in this regard.

With instances of tension between legislature and judiciary on the rise, Dr Manmohan Singh and Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who spoke before the Prime Minister, dwelt on the role of judiciary and other organs of the state.

Dr Manmohan Singh said judiciary, executive and legislature had an obligation to the Constitution and to the people to work in harmony. “Each one of the organs have their constitutionally assigned roles and responsibilities, and these must be discharged in all honesty. Each organ must respect the roles and functions of the other. Powers accorded to each organ must be exercised cautiously,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the dividing line between judicial activism and judicial overreach is a thin one. “As an example, compelling action by the state authorities through the power of mandamus is an inherent power vested in the judiciary. However, substituting mandamus with a takeover of functions of another organ may, at times, become a case of overreach. These are all delicate issues, which need to be addressed cautiously. All organs, including the judiciary, must ensure that the dividing line between them are not breached,” he said.

Dr Manmohan Singh said the government accorded high priority to judicial reforms and placed special emphasis on professionalism in investigation. “There is a Bill now before Parliament that seeks to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to deal with the problem of witnesses turning hostile. It also seeks to provide legal rights and compensation to victims. It will also facilitate the use of modern techniques in investigation. The Bill will make summary trial mandatory in cases with imprisonment up to 3 years,” he said.

Expressing concern over arrears of more than 2.5 crore of cases in courts, he said over two-thirds of these were criminal cases. “While there has been some progress in reducing pendency in superior courts, the position in subordinate courts has hardly shown any improvement. Unless the rate of disposal improves, the backlog would keep mounting.” Pointing out that a factor causing pendency is the number of vacancies that presently remain unfilled in the subordinate judiciary, he said states and high courts should implement a time-bound exercise for filling up vacancies. Dr Manmohan Singh suggested that the courts may consider having more than one shift to increase the disposal of cases. Hoping that computerisation would help our courts reduce pendency, he said fast track courts were another answer to dealing with the problem.

Drawing attention to family courts, he said such courts had not yet been set up in several states according to provisions of the Family Courts Act 1984.

Union minister for law and justice H.R. Bhardwaj, minister of state for law and justice Shri Venkatapathy, judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, Chief Ministers of the states were among those who took part in the conference.



All laws open to judicial review: CJI
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 8
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Balakrishnan said the founding fathers of the Constitution had placed “justice” at the highest pedestal and the Preamble demonstrates the precedence to social and economic justice over political justice. “Independence of judiciary is essential to the rule of law,” he said.

He said the judicial review seemed deceptively simple but was one of the most baffling legal devices. “Sometimes it is mistakenly described as a veto over legislation. The constitutional validity of legislation, as well as of executive acts, is decided solely as an incident of litigation between individual litigants. The process of constitutional interpretation is thus an integral part of the ordinary legal process, controlled by precedent and standards of judicial objectivity and propriety”.

The Chief Justice of India said the application of judicial review to determine the constitutionality of the legislation and review the executive decision sometimes created tension between the judge and the legislative and the executive branch. Such tension was natural and to some extent desirable. “The principle of separation of powers are kept in the forefront and the judge should make sure that each of the other branches operates within the boundaries of the law”.

He said the judicial review of legislative and administrative actions had given rise to some criticism of the way the courts were functioning. “It is essential that every decision must be made under the rule of law. Like any other public institution the judiciary can be subjected to fair criticism, but if criticism is irresponsible, it may cause incalculable damage to the institution of judiciary,” he said.

Justice Balakrishnan said it was a matter of satisfaction that public at large continued to hold the judicial institution in high esteem despite shortcomings. He quoted Dr Cyrus Das who said justice was a consumer product and must therefore meet the test of confidence, reliability and dependability like any other product if it was to survive market scrutiny.

The courts, the Chief Justice of India said, did not possess a magic wand that they could waive to wipe out the huge pendency of cases nor could they afford to ignore the instances of injustices and illegalities only because of of huge arrears of cases. “It is high time we make a scientific and rational analysis of the factors behind the accumulation of arrears and devise specific plan to at least bring them within acceptable limit, within a reasonable time frame”. He said the real problem was that the institution of cases in the courts far exceeded their disposal despite improvement in the number of cases decided.



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