It is incumbent upon judges to exercise utmost discretion in utterances inside courtrooms, President Ram Nath Kovind said here on Saturday. ‘‘Indiscreet remarks, even if made with good intention, give space for dubious interpretations to run down the judiciary," he said.
The President was speaking at the valedictory function of the Constitution Day celebrations conducted by the Supreme Court.
Kovind said that in Indian tradition, judges are imagined as a model of rectitude and detachment more akin to 'sthitpragya' (a person of steady wisdom). Their essential quality is detachment founded on independence, and history teaches that the independence of the judiciary is jeopardised when courts become embroiled in the passions of the day, and assume primary responsibility in choosing between competing political, economic and social pressure, Kovind said, quoting a US judge.
In support of his contention, the President further quoted Justice Frankfurter of the US Supreme Court who had said courts are not representative bodies and are not designed to be a good reflex of a democratic society.
Nonetheless, he acknowledged that "we have a rich history of legions of such judges known for their utterances full of sagacity and conduct beyond reproach, which have become hallmarks for the future generations."
"We are legatees of an illustrious history in which legal luminaries not only shaped the national movement but also created a prototype of a selfless public figure.
"Right from the beginning, the judiciary consistently conformed to those highest standards of conduct while discharging its responsibility. In people's view, it is the most trusted institution," the President said.
Kovind also expressed anguish at the remarks made against judges in social media.
"It pains me to no end, therefore, to note that of late, there have been cases of some disparaging remarks against the judiciary made on social media platforms. These platforms have worked wonderfully to democratise information, yet they have a dark side too. The anonymity granted by them is exploited by some miscreants. I hope this is an aberration, and it will be short-lived," Kovind said.
He also wondered what could be behind this phenomenon. "Can we, collectively, examine the reasons behind it for the sake of a healthy society," he asked.
The President said the Constitution is the roadmap for our collective journey.
"At the core of it are justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. In this forum, let us explore what it has to say about justice," he said.
The President spoke about pendency of cases and appointment of judges, and made it clear that he was of the firm view that the independence of the judiciary is non-negotiable. He, however, asked, "Without diluting it to the slightest degree, can a better way be found to select judges for the higher judiciary?"
"For instance, there can be an all-India judicial service which can select, nurture and promote the right talent, right from the lower levels to the higher levels," Kovind added.
He said the idea is not new and has been around for more than half a century without being tested.
"I am sure that there could also be better suggestions for reforming the system. Ultimately, the aim should be to strengthen the justice delivery mechanism," the President said.
The issue of pendency has ramifications for economic growth and development too, he added.
"It is high time all stakeholders find a way out by keeping national interest above all, he concluded.