Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fragile Justice

CJI Mr.Khehar has publicly announced that a friend who is very close to him will not be allowed to argue in his court. This move is perhaps to preclude charges of partiality. The intention is good. How practical is this as a guarantor of fairness in justice delivery?

Other judges now know that this advocate is close to CJI. Human as they are, will they ensure that no special treatment is meted out to him? After all, as the popular saying goes, "A great lawyer is one who knows the law. A successful lawyer is one who knows the judge."

This is not to say that there is cronyism in entire judiciary. This only shows the difficulty, if not impossibility, of avoiding personal bias while hearing cases. Cronyism may not subvert justice. But it certainly tilts justice in favour of the friendly, the known and the accommodative.

Bias arises not only due to friendship, but also due to cultural and social factors. E.M.S.Namboodripad controversially observed, “between a well dressed pot-bellied rich man and a poor ill-dressed and illiterate person the judge instinctively favours the former”. 

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