Courts must be open to public scrutiny, criticism: Salve

PTI | Ahmedabad | Updated: 17-01-2021 11:20 IST | Created: 17-01-2021 11:04 IST
Courts must be open to public scrutiny, criticism: Salve
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve has said courts must be open to public scrutinyand criticism as ''institutions of governance''.

Addressing a lecture organised in Ahmedabad throughvideo-conference on Saturday, Salve said criticism of judges,judicial overreach and the manner of functioning is notscandalising courts, and the language in which such criticismis addressed should be treated with a grin.

''We today have accepted that judges, or rather courts,and especially constitutional courts, have become institutionsof governance. As an institution of governance it must be opento public scrutiny and public criticism,'' he said.

''We have always accepted that the decisions of courtscan be criticised, including in language which may beimpolite. So the decisions can be criticised. Can we criticisethe decision-making process? Why not?'' Salve said.

He was addressing the 16th Justice P D Desai MemorialLecture onCriticism of judiciary, contempt jurisdictionand its use in the age of social media.

''Governance has to be under the sharp blaze ofsunlight...in fact, I think a time may come when the SupremeCourt may seriously consider a very large number of provisionsof the Official Secrets Act, how far do they square withdemocracy,'' he said.

Most of them have fallen into disuse, said Salve,who was last year appointed the Queens Counsel for the courtsof England and Wales.

To say an institution has lost its independence,to say that an institution is acting at the behest of someone,to allege corruption--that, if it is established to be untrue,is clearly undermining public faith, Salve added.

''This residue of power to deal with those who arecapable of influencing public opinion...you may be in publiclife, influencer.

''Those are cases where courts must retain with itselfthis slender jurisdiction of addressing any rupture inpublic faith which may be caused,'' he said.

Salve further said ''if we do need the principles ofcontempt, where do we draw the lines?'' The lines must be drawn in a way that the overallsystem of governance--the institutions and the criticism ofthe institutions--helps everybody march forward in this marchof democracy.

''There is one area where I think judges need to beprotected. And that area is casting aspersions on aninstitution in consistent with its character as an independentinstitution,'' the former solicitor general of India said.

He said courts need not pay heed to tweets by thosewho have nothing better to do but to sit with a mobile phonein their hands and pass judgments, specially on things whichthey do not understand.

At the same time, criticism by a politician or thosewho can influence public opinion raises a different issue, hesaid.

These are the cases ''where the courts must retainwith itself this slender jurisdiction of addressing anyrupture in public faith which may be caused,'' he said.

He also said the Bar must act against judges andcourts being criticised, and must deal with ill-informedcriticism as a part of the system.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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