New Delhi: Ever since four senior Supreme Court judges held an unprecedented press conference to criticise then-Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in January 2018, the Indian judiciary has been embroiled in a series of controversies — with the issues ranging from corruption in the higher judiciary, transparency in the appointment of judges, allegations of bench-fixing and judicial overreach.
The latest is the sexual harassment complaint against CJI Ranjan Gogoi by a former employee of the apex court.
The woman, who made the accusations in an affidavit sent to the 22 judges of the Supreme Court last month, has refused to participate in the in-house inquiry, saying she is “frightened” of the three-judge committee questioning her without allowing her lawyer to be present. She has also complained of having developed a hearing impairment due to stress.
The case has been beset with controversies since it came to light on 19 April — first, the CJI set up a bench including himself to rule on the allegations against him. Then, an in-house inquiry committee was constituted, but one member, Justice N.V. Ramana, recused himself because the complainant alleged he was a close personal friend of Justice Gogoi.
For Justice Gogoi, it’s a far cry from the press conference 16 months ago, in which he and three other judges hit out at his predecessor’s style of functioning.
Their objections to Justice Misra were related to the way he assigned important cases to junior judges, with special mention of the case regarding the death of trial court judge B.H. Loya to Justice Arun Mishra, who was 10th senior-most at the time.
Restatement of Values of Judicial Life
In this context, it is important to refer to a Charter called the ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial Life’, adopted by the Supreme Court on 7 May 1997. It is a code of judicial ethics and serves as a guide for an independent and fair judiciary, paving the way for the impartial administration of justice.
The code comprises 16 points:
- Justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done. The behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. Accordingly, any act of a judge of the Supreme Court or a high court, whether in official or personal capacity, which erodes the credibility of this perception, has to be avoided.
- A judge should not contest the election to any office of a club, society or other association; further he shall not hold such elective office except in a society or association connected with the law.
- Close association with individual members of the bar, particularly those who practice in the same court, shall be eschewed.
- A judge should not permit any member of his immediate family, such as spouse, son, daughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law or any other close relative, if a member of the Bar, to appear before him or even be associated in any manner with a cause to be dealt with by him.
- No member of his family, who is a member of the Bar, shall be permitted to use the residence in which the judge actually resides or other facilities for professional work.
- A judge should practice a degree of aloofness consistent with the dignity of his office.
- A judge shall not hear and decide a matter in which a member of his family, a close relation or a friend is concerned.
- A judge shall not enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters or on matters that are pending or are likely to arise for judicial determination.
- A judge is expected to let his judgments speak for themselves. He shall not give interviews to the media.
- A judge shall not accept gifts or hospitality except from his family, close relations and friends.
- A judge shall not hear and decide a matter in which a company in which he holds shares is concerned unless he has disclosed his interest and no objection to his hearing and deciding the matter is raised.
- A judge shall not speculate in shares, stocks or the like.
- A judge should not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business, either by himself or in association with any other person. (Publication of a legal treatise or any activity in the nature of a hobby shall not be construed as trade or business).
- A judge should not ask for, accept contributions or otherwise actively associate himself with the raising of any fund for any purpose.
- A judge should not seek any financial benefit in the form of a perquisite or privilege attached to his office unless it is clearly available. Any doubt in this behalf must be got resolved and clarified through the Chief Justice.
- Every judge must at all times be conscious that he is under the public gaze and there should be no act or omission by him which is unbecoming of the high office he occupies and the public esteem in which that office is held.