Suo motu PILs and judicial activism is undemocratic and a threat to the independence of judiciary

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7.11.2021

Nobody can be an actor (suitor) and a judex (judge) at the same time is a fundamental principle of law. A court can make an exception to that to correct grave errors at its hands, suo motu, acting on itself. Judges are free citizens and they are free to do whatever is not prohibited by law is not a correct perception. The office they occupy is sacrosanct and their conduct should be exemplary. They should command respect by the quality of their judgements, erudition, their independence, fairness and impartiality. It is forbidden for a judge to seek publicity or even seeming to be so.

A judge has no jurisdiction to step into the province of the executive or legislature. Judges certainly ought to resist the temptation to be in limelight by taking up causes which may win them accolades and approbations from the common people. It would do no good to them to assume the role of activists and administrators. There is an elected government accountable to the people to do that.

It is said judges like Caesar’s wife be above suspicion. Maintaining close contact with the rich and the mighty and the powerful or even when they do not do that to allow such an impression to be created would do no good to the judges. It is said that when a judge seeks publicity it is the beginning of the erosion of the faith of the public in him.

It is certainly unbecoming of the media, NGOs, even members of the Bar to issues statements, circulars, videos and audios hailing a particular judge or a cause he seems to have identified himself with. It is the duty of every judge to restrain whomsoever they find to be indulging in flattery, even where they have indulged in such activities without the knowledge of the judge concerned. It is so because what is at stake is not the reputation of the judge alone but the very credibility of the institution of judiciary.

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