A group of 772 lawyers have written a letter to Chief Justice S.A. Bobde to raise concerns on an emerging trend to browbeat and intimidate the judiciary.
“India has witnessed a series of attacks by institutional disruptors against judges who are unwilling to agree with them and toe the line drawn by them. It is unfortunate that when political ends of lawyers are not served by a decision of the court, they vilify the court by making scandalising remarks. The Supreme Court of India as well as the judges are subject to both scurrilous language, malicious attacks and scandalising remarks”, said the statement.
On August 14, the Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court and fixed the date of hearing for his sentencing on August 20. A statement was issued by ‘Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms’, (CJAR) on August 15, condemning the judgment and further calling upon the Supreme Court, and every judge, to reconsider their decision. CJAR includes a retired judge, Justice P.B. Sawant, former law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan among others as their patrons.
In the letter to the Chief Justice, the lawyers emphasised that legitimate criticism of both judgements and the functioning of the institution has always existed however when the criticism is calculated and actuated by malice, it is the authority of the court which is undermined. “We urge you to uphold the edifice of the judicial system and protect the third pillar of our democracy from those who peddle falsehood to destroy the institution. We sincerely hope that the Supreme Court of India ensures that such persons are dealt with in an exemplary manner, even if such actions are taken thirteen years later or else such trends will only accelerate and strike a blow to the guardian of the rule of law,” read the statement.
The group lawyers said if the judiciary is to perform its duties and functions effectively, it is essential to protect the dignity and authority of the courts.
“The foundation of the judiciary is the confidence of the people in its ability to deliver justice. The actions of these institutional disruptors through name calling and usage of certain phrases such as ‘Supreme Court has destroyed democracy’; ‘the Supreme Court is killing the Constitution’ have the tendency to destroy the faith of the public in the judiciary”, added the statement.