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by Justice M. Katju

Cite as : (2005) 2 SCC (Jour) 37

My brother Judges Hon'ble Mr Justice M. Chockalingam, Hon'ble Mr Justice Sardar Zackria Hussain, Hon'ble Mr Justice S.K. Krishnan, Hon'ble Mr Justice S.R. Singharavelu, Mr Registrar (Administration), Mr Registrar (Judicial), Principal District Judges of various districts in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, the various judicial officers assembled here, ladies and gentlemen.

I am very grateful that the judicial officers of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu have invited me to be with them today. It is indeed a great pleasure to be with all of you and to exchange certain thoughts.

The first question which arises is what is the need of a judiciary? Why have a judiciary? After all, a lot of money has to be spent on court buildings and salaries to the judges and salaries to the staff and so on. So, is it not all a waste of money? Can all this money not be better utilised for other purposes, like welfare programmes, etc.? Why have a judiciary at all, where a large amount of money has to be spent, crores and crores of rupees. The answer is that, it is in the nature of things that in every society, in every country, there are bound to be disputes between the people, grievances of the people and therefore, there has to be a forum for peaceful resolution of the disputes and peaceful ventilation of these grievances. Otherwise, the disputes will be resolved and the grievances will be ventilated with bombs, bullets and sticks in a violent manner. Therefore, the judiciary is a great safety valve. It prevents violence. When people have some grievances, some disputes, they come to court, they are heard through their lawyers, the opposite parties are heard through their lawyers and then a decision is given. Even if the decision goes against that person, he has the feeling that he was given a hearing and this pacifies him. Otherwise, if you do not hear him, then the feeling of injustice may turn into violence. Therefore, the judiciary ensures peace and tranquillity in society and that is its most important purpose.

However, it is absolutely essential for members of the judiciary to remember that our authority rests on public confidence. It does not rest on our power of contempt of court. The celebrated Judge of the US Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter has remarked in one of his judgments that the judiciary has neither the purse nor the sword. The purse is with the Government, the sword is with the army and the police. All we have is our moral authority, and as long as we maintain that moral authority, our orders will be respected and complied with by the authorities. But the moment that moral authority disappears, our orders will not be respected, will not be complied with, despite the power of contempt of court. So, it is not the power of contempt of court, which enforces our orders. It is the moral authority which we enjoy, the public confidence which we enjoy, which makes our orders enforceable. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that members of the judiciary maintain the highest standards of integrity and rectitude and function with impartiality to maintain the public confidence. Once the public ceases to have confidence in you, I can tell you, you are finished. You will just be thrown aside by society. You will not be tolerated by the society. So, therefore, it is absolutely essential that judges maintain very high standards of integrity and this cannot be hidden. Please understand that if you are doing things wrong, the public will definitely get to know. You may think that you are too smart; you are doing wrong things and people will not get to know. You are absolutely mistaken. Everybody knows about the integrity of a judge. This is a thing which can never be concealed, and it is known very quickly among the people. So, I request you all to maintain the highest standards of justice and dispense justice speedily and impartially.

The life of a judge is a very difficult life, because it is a very restricted social life. It is natural for human beings to socialise. Man is basically a social being, as the great philosopher Aristotle used to say. We are basically gregarious creatures. We like to mix with each other. So it is natural among human beings to socialise and mix together. But, judges have to lead an unsocial life, which means, in a sense, an unnatural life. We are going against nature, because natural life is a social life. We have to lead a very restricted social life and that is why it is not easy to be a judge. You have to be very very careful with whom you mix; with whom you meet; where you meet; when you meet; for how long you meet. You have to be very choosy and selective. I am not saying that you should not mix with anybody. Restricted social life does not mean no social life. After all, you have relations; you have old friends; you would like to mix with them. But, you have to be careful with new people, who will suddenly like to become friendly with you after you became a judge. You have to be choosy and selective, because again the whole thing comes down to your image in society. The people must have confidence in you. So, therefore, you have to be selective about where to go. You should not accept all social functions. You will be getting a lot of invitations to so many social functions. You have to be very selective. Certain social functions, like your relation's marriage, your close friend's marriage are alright. But going to every marriage, accepting every invitation, I do not think is proper. You have to be careful about your image, because justice should not only be done, but also appear to be done.

Having said that, I would like to say that it is my firm opinion that in order to get high-quality justice, the judges must be given adequate facilities, good salaries. After all, a judge is a human being. He has got his wife and children to look after. He is not a sadhu or something, who can do without the basic facilities and amenities. So, I will be taking up your cause with the Government. I will be examining all your problems. Your office-bearers can give your demands through your representations. I will certainly take them up with the Government and do my best to get you good benefits, good facilities, good amenities. Judges must have a good residence. They must have other good facilities, so that they can discharge their functions with a free mind. If they are all the time worried about how they will keep their family, where will their wives and children live, obviously they cannot be expected to discharge their duties and dispense justice with a free mind.

In this connection, I may just give you one historical example. In 1945, when the Second World War ended, the conditions in England were very bad, because due to the war, there were shortages of coal and electricity; shortage of food and so on. People were shivering in the cold. There was shortage of food. At that time, Prime Minister Winston Churchill doubled the salary of the judges throughout England and there was a big hue and cry about this in the House of Commons. Some people said what is this? Are the judges superior beings or a privileged class? Everybody is suffering, shivering and hungry; so let the judges also shiver, and be hungry and suffer. Why are they being treated like this and their salaries being doubled when the whole country is facing a terrible time? In reply to this criticism, Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave a historic speech in the House of Commons. He said that you people must understand that the life of a judge is a very difficult life. You will not see an English judge anywhere, except in court. He never goes to any social functions or parties anywhere, and even his wife has to lead a very restricted social life. So, you have to compensate him for that, for the very difficult life he has to lead, if you want high-quality justice, because without high-quality justice, there will not be any peace and law and order in society. This is why we have doubled the salaries of the judges. When he explained this, then the Members of the House of Commons understood. I am also of the same view as Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the judges must get high salaries, they must get good facilities, good amenities, they should have a free mind, so that they can dispense justice fairly and impartially.

Of course, as I said, all of us, as judges, are expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity. This is our duty to our nation, which I will expect from all of you. I am confident that you all will maintain very high standards of integrity, because, as I said, we survive only on public confidence. Thank you.


+ Speech delivered by Hon'ble Mr Justice Markandey Katju, Chief Justice of Madras High Court at the Judicial Officers' Meet on 11-12-2004 at the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, Madurai Return to Text

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