The Chief Justice got angry about leaks, but in the past, the Supreme Court has strongly weighed in favour of the media when it came to publishing leaks.
Judges are human too, and must get angry sometimes. But should they also do so when in the bench? Should they also let their anger, however justified, affect their judgment?
We ask this because the judges Tuesday got really angry in the Supreme Court. In fact, the Chief Justice was so angry that he said “none of you deserve a hearing”.
We all know the background of this case. This is the fight within the CBI which has now shifted to the Supreme Court because it had led the reform in the CBI. The Supreme Court also has a role in the appointment of the director. In this case, the director, his number 2 and number 3, everybody was fighting everybody, and then the fight reached the Supreme Court because the director was abruptly removed by the government.
But the director had filed charges not verbally, but as an FIR against his deputy. So everything landed at the Supreme Court’s bench. Since then, those officers are all filing their affidavits and court wants these to be kept confidential.
Nothing in any capital city remains confidential, and particularly if it involves somebody’s personal career interest, confidentiality is impossible to maintain. I am not saying it should not be maintained. Of course, as a journalist, I love leaks. But it is OK for the Supreme Court to demand confidentiality. But if they leak, how should the court deal with it?
So, the court got very angry, and the Chief Justice said, “I will not hear, come back on the 29th November (that is 10 days later). “
Now, first of all, is it correct for any judge, least of all a Supreme Court judge, to say “you don’t deserve a hearing”?
Judges can’t afford to be so angry. They’re supposed to be rational and cool. Everybody deserves a hearing, even a murderer, terrorist or a foreign terrorist like Kasab deserves a hearing. A terrorist like Yakub Memon deserves a hearing so much that even after he is condemned to execution, judges can wake up in the middle of the night and give him a hearing. So, a hearing is everybody’s right. In my humble view, this outburst was uncalled for. Judges should have shoulders broad enough to handle these things.
So, what now? Because the judges got angry, they’ve said, come back on the 29th. That means 10 days gone. Alok Verma, the director of CBI, retires in January. Now, what’s happening?
First, you gave 10 days, then pushed it by another 10 days. If this goes on, then this problem will just waste away. Which means, if injustice is being done to Alok Verma, he will miss the opportunity of getting justice within his term at the CBI.
On the other hand, if injustice is being done to Rakesh Asthana, he will continue to be under a shadow all this while.
Finally, if any of them are guilty, and who knows if both of them are guilty, both will get away with the drift. So, what should have been a straightforward case of a corruption probe against one or the other is now getting both politicised and falling into a usual judicial delay cycle: taarikh pe taarikh pe taarikh. This is uncalled for.
Once again, an appeal to the judges. Judges are getting into executive functioning. Executive functioning is messy, imperfect, noisy and disorderly. I do not believe that judges and the courts system is designed to run these systems on a day-to-day basis because the way they run will irritate you.
Judges have to learn to accept the noise and the chaos of the democracy. It is their job to bring order when it goes out of control, and to interpret the law and to make sure the law is implemented. It is not their job to govern, and to govern a wild animal like CBI or BCCI, it is bound to have consequences. But if you have decided to do it, you got to keep your calm, hold your counsel and don’t get angry.
When the big power gets angry, then what happens? Maybe people like me will start quaking in our feet. But the bad guys are thick-skinned. Once again, please come back to the courts and calm down. Don’t worry about the leaks. Leaks are an essential part of democracy and journalism.
Leaks have been good in the past. The Supreme Court had upheld leaks as a legitimate thing — whether it was Radia tapes, Amar Singh tapes or 2G revelations, the court has strongly weighed in favour of the media when it came to the question of publishing leaks. They should apply the same rule to this and address this as a question of an institutional crisis in CBI, and find answers accordingly.