The key message from Ayodhya verdict is that the dispute is now over: Sharad Arvind Bobde, CJI Designate
Thousands of (judicial) appointments have come through without a hitch. The government is a key stakeholder and not a rubber stamp. The primacy in selection is with the judges and it might be a reasonable thing. Names must originate from the court...
How was unanimity achieved on the Ayodhya verdict?
It was agreed by all of us that it should be one verdict.
Did you agree in advance or it just evolved? Who authored the order?
We all agreed… When the thinking is common, one person writes it down. It is always considered a judgement of the court. I don’t want to get into it any further.
Was it among the most difficult cases you have handled?
How has it been received?
I don’t want to talk about it much. We gave the order and that’s it. How concerned were you about the law and order situation? The CJI met UP chief secretary and DGP... Ye bada kaam thha, worry to thhi (This was big job, we were worried a bit). We are satisfied that we did our best.
What is the one message the verdict seeks to send?
The message is this dispute is over.
Do you agree with the view that the government is indirectly trying to influence and control appointments by delaying or sitting on proposals?
It’s not justified. You look at hundreds and thousands of appointment that have come through without a hitch. The government is an important stakeholder. It is not a rubber stamp. The appointing authority is the President of India… You can’t marginalise the government’s role. According to judgements, the primacy in selection is with the judges and it it might be a reasonable thing. Names must originate from the courts.
How do you plan to address delays, pendency and high cost of justice?
There will always be some pendency. It takes some time to decide, dispose of a case. Then, there is the appeal process. Instant justice also has a negative connotation. So, cases must be dealt without undue delay and undue hurry. This is an important characteristic of the judicial process. As an English judge once remarked, ‘Justice has the walk of a queen’. What that means is there should be no laziness, no slackness.
Judiciary has been marred by controversies. There was a move to impeach CJI. There’s been talk of government interference. Has the credibility of judiciary taken a hit?
I have also heard to the contrary that the judiciary is doing well. It’s deciding cases every day. I don’t think credibility has been lost. If you measure by the number of cases filed, number of times courts’ powers are invoked...I think people are approaching judiciary as often as they used to, if not more.
What will be your priorities as the next Chief Justice of India?
The only goal which judiciary can have is justice. All other priorities should be subservient to this goal.
One big concern for business has been delays in settlement of commercial disputes and enforcement of contracts. Have you given these any thought?
There is a commercial division now in courts. There is also a provision which deals with pre-litigation mediation in commercial matters. All matters could be made to first go through pre-litigation mediation. So, if there is a commercial problem or dispute between two businesses, they could first go for pre-litigation mediation. If the issues is not solved, they can approach the court.
How do you implement pre-litigation mediation?
It will require some statutory basis. Parliament will have to legislate. There is already a provision in the Lok Adalat Act where a settlement is enforceable like decree of the court. This agreement between the two parties arrived at the stage of pre-mediation litigation could have a force of a decree.
Do you think the Bar would warm up to the idea?
It is essential to have diploma and degree courses in mediation in national law universities. I have already had a talk with the Bar Council of India and the chairman thought it could be included in the syllabus for LLB for mediation. When we have this, we could have lawyers qualified as mediators through a degree. They could form a Mediation Bar.
What are your thoughts on the government’s proposal for creating a National Judicial Service?
It’s a good idea. An interrogatory was received by the high courts many years ago when I was at the Bombay HC and I had said it was a good idea. First, there will be need for specialised academy for training judges who would serve throughout the country. It could be on the lines of the National Defence Academy. Second, judges would have to become familiar with local laws of the state. There will have to be some provisions for imparting knowledge of the language of the state where they would be serving. Unlike other services, this is a language-intensive job where people give evidence in their language. They have to be cross-examined. Third, you need infrastructure. I think it is doable. In IAS, people are posted all over the country. Why not have one (judicial) service? It is also necessary from the point of view of national integration.
Do you anticipate any opposition from HCs and state governments?
I’m not talking of ramming this idea down somebody’s throat. It will be necessary to talk to different people. The service will have to be established by some law.
What are your views on the proposal for setting up a secretariat for screening candidates for judicial selection?
There can be no dispute that there should be effective screening. The only thing is how and who does it. I think that is being worked out well.
Will we see live telecast of court proceedings during your tenure?
Let’s see… I haven’t read the judgement.
What are your own views?
I think it depends on the case.
And your views on death penalty?
The death penalty has been held to be constitutional, it is part of the law. Judges take an oath to uphold and apply the law. It’s not a matter of opinion…in an appropriate case, the court inflicts the death penalty.