Senior Advocate Harish Salve on Saturday expressed anguish over the silence of the Bar when aspersions are cast on courts and independence of judges is questioned.
He exhorted lawyers to protect the judiciary while also pinning his hopes on the younger generation of lawyers to fight “ill-informed criticism” against judges.
“We owe it as the members of the Bar to protect our institution. It breaks my heart to see judges being criticized, courts being criticized and members of the Bar not responding to it,” Salve said.
Salve was speaking at Justice PD Desai Memorial Lecture on the topic “Criticism of Judiciary, Contempt Jurisdiction and its use in the age of social media“.
Ill-informed criticism, Salve added, should be dealt with by the Bar and not by the Bench using contempt of court powers.
“We owe it to the Judges for the simple reason that we are part of the same institution. It is true that the Court cannot reply to ill-informed criticism. But it is equally true and very important to remember that we as a part of the system must deal with ill-informed criticism. Ill-informed criticism should not be duelled using the power of contempt. Ill-informed criticism should be killed by the Bar.”
Salve also recalled an incident where former Chief Justice of India, late HS Kapadia was termed as “corrupt” for pronouncing a particular judgment.
“I can never forget…an allegation was made against Justice Kapadia and I am saying it so publicly…Justice Kapadia decided a case, an environmental case, where for the first time he directed how monies should be paid by a mine owner and put in a special purpose vehicle and used for the local people. He decided the case in open court, after number of hearings….and his decision was called corrupt by somebody who appeared before him, because he rejected the argument that it is a tribal area, and no mining should be done. That decision was called corrupt. I remember, he (Justice Kapadia) almost had tears in his eyes one day. He said, “we are called corrupt and you, members of the Bar, do nothing about it“. I was so upset that in my own name, I have only done it once, moved a contempt petition.”
Salve further opined that the younger generation would be key in fighting ill-informed criticism of courts and judges alike.
“….I have no doubt in my mind, our generation has failed but I have great faith in the next generation (in tackling ill-informed criticism). I see these youngsters who come out of law colleges.”
Salve, in his address, also spoke on how India cannot do away with contempt of Court and how contempt cases involving people in public life should be dealt with.
The session ended with a vote of thanks.