Commenting on ongoing judicial proceedings is irregular, possibly inappropriate because only selective views are being presented, and “observations” from both the Bench and the Bar are made in specific contexts; they may not necessarily find place in the all-important verdict. It must also be noted that of late a distinct media savvy is discernible in the quips and comments: many are tailor-made for attracting “eyeballs”. Yet despite those cautions and caveats, the arguments being advanced in the case pertaining to the establishment of the National Judicial Appointments Commission to replace the Collegium system have at least to the layman provided a rare instance of the apex court looking within, in its entirety. And there would be much resonance with the otherwise near-outrageous suggestion from the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (his cutting-edge possibly honed by frequent television appearances) that their Lordships don burqas and move in the corridors to obtain critical feedback. In short, to hear opinions that would hardly be expressed in court, and wherever those obsolete “contempt” provisions prevail maybe even apply to this commentary.
For while the Supreme Court has indeed repeatedly proved itself the “court of last resort”, its functioning is not above questioning. Sifting through the points made by the Attorney-General, the president of the SCBA, and other senior counsel suggests that all is not well in the edifice in Tilak Marg. And obviously a key factor in the equation is the quality of the persons elevated to the most exalted Bench in the land. It is worth noting that even the most vocal critic of the NJAC, the celebrated Mr Fali Nariman, did not issue a clean chit to the system by which judges appointed themselves.
Should their Lordships, with or without disguising themselves, move even farther afield from the Supreme Court they would come across negative opinions that go beyond the standard criticisms of inordinate delays, activism having been carried much too far, and the allegation that only those rich enough to engage the cream of counsel get what passes as justice. Corruption is rampant in the administrative apparatus down the line, there is common talk that even in the apex court there is much “fixing” to ensure that senior counsel appear before particular judges/benches.
The perception runs strong that cases involving high-profile personalities are automatically fast-tracked. The list of such negatives runs long, highlighting some of them is not intended to demean the judiciary, rather to assist it regain its aura. The political class and the bureaucracy have long lost credibility, tragically even the military&’s “magic” is wearing thin. The NJAC proceedings have provided their Lordships a rare mirror and the reflection may not always be pretty.