It is not that they are unaware of the many problems that ail the Indian Judiciary. For some reason the necessary corrective action is not taking place. At the valedictory function of the Constitution Day celebration, President Ram Nath Kovind very gently advised judges to exercise discretion in their courtroom comments. Hopefully, this is a piece of advice that will be strictly followed, not just because of the impact it has on cases, but also public opinion. The day is long gone when such comments would go unnoticed in the hurly-burly of everyday functioning. Today, even the most minor slip of tongue becomes viral in a matter of minutes. Also, many of these comments reveal certain shortcomings of temperament, unconscious bias, even lack of legal acumen. This leads to unnecessary lack of respect for the judicial fraternity.
The Chief Justice, on his part, deflected criticism by pointing out that the failure to deliver verdicts on time was also due to other reasons than mere judicial performance. That is indeed true because the judicial system involves, as the CJI pointed out, the prosecution, defence lawyers, investigators and the procedural bottlenecks. Too much of the system is rooted in British era functioning and has failed to catch up with modern techniques and processes. The circle of blame gets wider and, ultimately, ends up at the level of political will. It may be said that, in India particularly, it is the powerful and the rich who benefit most from the discrepancies. That creates a vested interest in ensuring delay in the delivery of verdicts. In contrast, the ordinary people suffer because even the most minor of matters remain pending almost indefinitely, often destroying the lives of victims, innocent persons and their families.
While a country like the US acknowledges the fact that judges have political and religious inclinations, which is often the reason for their appointment, India likes to pretend they are more evolved beings – as the President described it, ‘Stithpragya’. If that is the desired state of mind, there is need for a continuous process of training that keeps judges up to date with the latest advances in the various fields that impact on their functioning. There should be a regular process of sending them on delegation to benches in countries that have similar judicial systems. This would be the best way to prevent the increasingly poor opinion of the judges in the public mind, reflected in somewhat gross manner on social media. It is not always contempt of court.