CJI Ranjan Gogoi spoke in a conference of Chief Justices at SCO at Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Firstpost)

Speaking at a conference of Chief Justices at Sochi in Russia, CJI Justice Ranjan Gogoi pointed out the need of judiciary to stand up to populist forces and protect Constitutional ethos from being desecrated.

Stating independence of the judiciary as the soul of the institution, CJI Gogoi judiciary must prepare itself to protect its independence from populists onslaughts. He said when waves of populism sweep away legislature and the executive from their duties, the judiciary must stand up and protect the Constitutional ethos.

PTI quoted him:
In some phases in the journey of a nation, when the legislative and executive wings get swept away from their duties and goals under the Constitution by waves of populism, it is for the Judiciary to rise and stand up to the populist forces and protect the Constitutional ethos from being desecrated by the populists. To some critics and naysayers, this situation presents a case for hosting the classical counter-narrative Unelected Judges, acting under the Constitutional mandate, get to overturn the acts of the elected majority.

However, it is for us to recollect that such situations across the world have heaped tremendous pressure on the Judicial organs, and it is no surprise that in some jurisdictions Judiciary too has succumbed to populist forces. This is also an area that requires Judiciary to prepare itself, to strengthen itself about such populist onslaughts on the independence of the Institution.

The human agency, through which justice is sought to be administered, has to be adequately secured and fortified in ordinary times so that it is sufficiently equipped to deal with such forces of populism in extraordinary times, lest they overrun the judicial edifice too. This would be our strongest case for strengthening the independence of Judiciary,

He further said that in every political system, people aspire for an independent judicial system. To gain the confidence of people, the judicial system must be impartial, just, equitable and appealing to good conscience.

He also highlighted how institutional judicial independence and the independence of individual judges are different but intertwined. He said,
I must hasten to add here that despite such institutional independence being different, in its ambit and requirements, from individual independence of judges, we must recognise that both are mutually interdependent and both are vital for any Judicial system to be known as strong and responsive.

Proponents who call for a strong and independent judiciary would assert that in the absence of institutional independence of the judiciary, independent functioning of Judges cannot be assured and similarly, without strong and independent Judges, the ‘institutional independence’ of the ‘Judiciary’ would be a misnomer and futile.

He further stressed the importance of strength from within the institution. He said,
Strengthening of Institutions works best when they are strengthened from within and not when strength is sought to be infused from an external source. The strength that evolves from inside, touches the character and core of the Institution; in contrast, an external source could only lend support’ to the Institution. Such external support would rarely strengthen the core of the Institution…

He expressed the need to develop and nurture leadership at all levels of the judiciary. He said that independence must be strengthened at all levels to ensure the independence of the institution. He commented,

It is in this backdrop that amongst the several steps that would be required to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, the foremost would be to develop and nurture leadership at all levels of the Institution.

This is one area where Judiciary is required to work hard in the coming years. Leadership roles bring decisiveness and direction at all levels. For the Institution to secure its independence, it is imperative that leaders at all levels of the Institution are on the same page and they think, act and speak likewise.

Source: The Times of India (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/rise-of-populist-forces-poses-a-challenge-to-judiciary-cji-gogoi/articleshow/69849591.cms).

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