On Gandhi/Shastri Jayanti, I was enlightened by a judgment pronounced by ex-justice of Supreme Court of India, “While I regard Gandhi as a fraud and a hypocrite who did great harm to India, and Shastri as a buffoon…”
It is worth noticing it because, if nothing dramatic has happened at the stroke of midnight on the retirement day to Honorable ex-justice Shree Markandey Katju, same brain that pronounced above verdict was also legally authorized to deliver judgments that could sent any of us to gaol or gallows for reasons known only to it.
Though the same gentleman has also adjudged that 90% of us Indians are idiots, and thus undermined my credibility to apply my mind to anything; I tempted to dare contempt of Katju and ponder over a deep question that pundits of jurisprudence are struggling with, i.e. can justice be freed from personal biases.
Supreme Court is unlike a regular court bound by written laws. It is the highest forum that looks at justice in its pristine form, beyond the word of law. So, at least in theory, if there is a competent authority that can admit was-Shastriji-a-buffoon and deliver judgment on it, it is the Supreme Court. Hence, as normal mortals, we have no right to question competence of Kutjuji’s brain in tackling the question; but, as a citizen of a nation that has great respect for its Supreme Court, I feel that he needs to face some scrutiny.
Curious case of justice Katju can’t be disposed as Rakhi Sawant of judicial world, because he is professionally trained specifically to pass judgments. Age-induced senility can’t be his defense, as most of our political leadership is equally or more ancient than 70 year old Katjuji.
The truth is, ex-justice Katju is more or less the same person today, who was appointed to the highest chair of justice in India few years back and gave verdicts in really serious matters. So, in some way, what may sound like rant of a whimsical old man today to some was the word of law back by the entire might of Republic of India. Mind and mindset of justice Katju visible to general public today is actually giving them an insight into the kind of thought process that may have been applied in the apex court of India.
This issue has a very serious dimension because Supreme Court is a rare institution that enjoys public trust in India. With most of other arms of state compromised due to visible corruption, people are surviving on the thin thread of faith in it. And Supreme Court has earned this position by maintaining highest level of propriety in its conduct.
Public image of Supreme Court is not a trivial matter because; it is the temple of justice that people approach with hope and faith. Nation may want to know many things but surely not that its Supreme Court had a highly opinionated judge with a head full of rapidly formed strange judgments about everything under the sun.
Justice Katju’s antics are highly entertaining for social media users, but they are harbingers of disaster in an era where people are getting extremely cynical about institutions; as this contributes, at some deep level, to developments like Karnataka refusing to release water or BCCI posturing in a defiant manner even after instructed by Supreme Court.
A good Supreme Court cannot depend solely on legal authority provided by the state, as its true power comes from its conduct that earns it respect and moral authority. This makes it important for a court to have formal mechanisms to ensure that its stature and credibility are not compromised by those connected with it.