New Delhi, Apr 23: Home Minister P Chidambaram today termed the higher judiciary “over ambitious” but complimented it for its activism which “enlarged the ambit of fundamental rights” of citizens.
Delivering the inaugural the K N Katju memorial lecture on ‘What ails the Indian judiciary', he said that like any other institution that has reached a ripe and old age, the judiciary is under stress.
“Another cause of stress is that the judiciary, especially the higher judiciary, is over ambitious. An ambitious court tends to think that there is a judicial solution to its problems,” he said.
The Home Minister said that in his view the Indian judiciary is not afflicted by any malady that is incurable.
Chidambaram, himself a reputed lawyer, said he had no intention to “pour oil” on a topic which was already hot and burning, which sent the audience consisting of eminent jurists into peals of laughter.
“I wonder why more subjects of discussion in India are quickly converted into hot and burning topics,” he said.
“I join in applauding the judicial activism of courts, especially the Supreme Court, in enlarging the ambit of fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and creating a human rights jurisdiction,” he said.
“However we must recognise that there is a dividing line between the right side and the wrong side of judicial activism. I do not aim to know where and how the line should be drawn to mark the right and wrong sides of judicial activism, but my instincts tell me that such a line is indeed there.
As long as we are all set and fine to the enforcement of human rights, the judiciary is on the right side of judicial activism. The wrong side becomes evident when, and I once again quote the Chief Justice of India that judicial activism is not beyond commitment to the constitution or the statute,” Chidambaram said.
“Many things...in my respectful submission, they cannot be fixed by judicial activism....,” he added. The Home Minister said the first and obvious cause of stress in judiciary is that it is over-worked and under-staffed.
“The overwhelming work is both a matter of happiness and concern. Happiness because most people in India still believe that the disputes should and can be resolved in the courts of law. Concern because the system is groaning under the weight of a number of cases...,” he said. He, however, added that there is a realisation that “not every dispute can be resolved through courts of law. There is also need to acknowledge that not every dispute deserves to be adjudicated at different levels of the judicial system. For example, the day Supreme Court turned away dispute arising out of a motivated concern, it relieved itself from the burden of hearing hundreds of trivial and inconsequential cases.
“Likewise, I think the Supreme Court should turn down pleas to hear many more kinds of cases that should reach finality at the level of High Courts,” Chidambaram said. He also cited the order of the apex court which made it mandatory that public transport should run only on CNG, a few years ago.
A purely judicial approach of a green court would in my mind have fixed the emission standard and the policy choice remains among the companies (oil companies), he said. Chidambaram said new methods of human resources should be introduced for the judiciary.
The under-staffing is both in terms of number and quality. This can be easily addressed if we discard the old methods of recruitment, training and performance appraisal and adopt new human resource policies, he said.
“I strongly urge that we explore other ways and means to increase the number of judges in the High Courts...,” he said. PTI