Judicial Appointments - Time To Introspect : PM

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New Delhi, Sep 11 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight stressed ''introspection'' to ensure that judicial appointments at all levels live up to ''exacting standards'' that once prevailed in Indian judiciary.

''The time has come for introspection,'' Dr Singh remarked after releasing a book analysing Justice P N Bhagwati's judgements during a 25-year judgeship before he retired in December 1986 as 17th Chief Justice of India.

The Prime Minister emphasised the urgency to ''ensure that judicial appointments at all levels live up to the exacting standards we associate with the name of Justice Bhagwati.'' The book titled 'Judicial Reflections of Justice Bhagwati' is claimed to study and analyse Justice Bhagwati's pronouncements from the time he became a Gujarat High Court and until his retirement after 17 months as CJI.

Dr Singh said Justice Bhagwati's tenure as Chief Justice of our Supreme Court ''will also be remembered for the high standards of integrity and intellectual leadership he provided to our nation's highest court.'' The Prime Minister's remarks come in the wake of questions raised about Indian jurisprudence as well as conduct of some of India's highest ranked judges, not to mention the ever burgeoning case arrears and delays.

Scholars have pointed to some judgements by highest Indian courts as reflecting ''dual... standards'' and erecting a "wall of difference" between "globalised and de-globalised Indian citizens".

Indian media have carried accounts of corrupt behaviour involving some judges, including a recently retired CJI some of whose orders allegedly involved a conflict of interest.

Critics blame such occurrences on the opacity surrounding processes of appointing judges and making them accountable.

''The time has come for introspection to ensure that judicial appointments at all levels live up to the exacting standards we associate with the name of Justice Bhagwati,'' Dr Singh said.

Justice Bhagwati is also credited with promoting Public Interest Litigation often invoked early on to secure relief to citizens, specially the weaker sections of the society.

''One cannot felicitate Justice Bhagwati without recalling his contribution to the idea of Public Interest Litigation. He pioneered the concept of PIL,'' Dr Singh noted.

''This instrument of legal empowerment has left a deep imprint on our legal process and on the processes of social change and political empowerment in our country.

''Many would argue that like in so many things in public life, in PILs too we may have gone too far. Perhaps a corrective was required and we have had some balance restored in recent times,'' Dr Singh told audience.

''But in principle, the instrument of PIL did help empower the people and we must thank Justice Bhagwati for giving a lead in this area, especially during his tenure as Chief Justice of India.'' Dr Singh said his government knew that providing access to Justice in a country of India's size raised many issues ''like values that must form basis of our justice system and the concern to make it accessible to the vulnerable and marginalised.'' He said his government has taken ''several initiatives'' in the last four years to strengthen the judiciary at various levels and reduce the backlog of pending cases.


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