Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana on Wednesday said judges should not be swayed by the “emotional pitch of public opinion on social media platforms”, and the judiciary cannot directly or indirectly be controlled by the legislature or the executive.
He also insisted media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases.
Delivering the 17th Justice P.D. Desai memorial lecture on ‘Rule of Law’, Chief Justice Ramana said: “The judiciary cannot be controlled, directly or indirectly, by the legislature or the executive, or else the Rule of Law would become illusory. At the same time, judges should not be swayed by the emotional pitch of public opinion either, which is getting amplified through social media platforms.”
He emphasised that judges have to be mindful of the fact that the noise thus amplified is not necessarily reflective of what is right and what the majority believes in. The new media tools that have the enormous amplifying ability are incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad, and the real and fake, he added.
“Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases extremely vital to function independently and withstand all external aids and pressures. While there is a lot of discussion about the pressure from the executive, it is also imperative to start a discourse as to how social media trends can affect the institutions,” the Chief Justice said.
He also clarified that the judge and the judiciary need not completely disassociate from what is going on.
“Judges cannot stay in ivory castles and decide questions which pertain to social issues… The ultimate responsibility of a judge is, after all, to uphold the Constitution and the laws. Reason, reasonableness and protection of human dignity are the values that will serve us well,” he added.
He stressed that for the judiciary to apply checks on governmental power and action, it has to have complete freedom. “And the importance of the judiciary should not blind us to the fact that the responsibility of safeguarding constitutionalism lies not just on the courts,” he noted.
He said the judiciary is the primary organ that is tasked with ensuring that the laws which are enacted are in line with the Constitution. “The Supreme Court has held this function to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, which means that the Parliament cannot curtail the same,” he added.