Stop Complaining about our Commendable Judiciary

soli j sorabjee Former Attorney-General of India

Published: 05th November 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th November 2017 10:12 PM   |  A+A-

The Supreme Court of India

Complaining is our national trait. Judiciary is one institution about which there are frequent complaints. The reason probably is that people unrealistically expect the judiciary to solve all their problems. The commendable performance of our judiciary in protecting and enlarging the fundamental rights of the people, citizens and non-citizens alike, is overlooked.Certain fundamental rights are specifically mentioned in Part III of the Constitution.

Other fundamental rights, which are not specifically mentioned, have been spelt out on the premise that certain unenumerated rights are implicit in the enumerated guarantees. To illustrate, our Constitution does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press as a fundamental right. However, our Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of the press is implicit in the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of the press has thus acquired the status of a fundamental right by judicial interpretation.

The right to travel abroad and return to one’s country, though not specifically guaranteed, has been spelt out from the expression ‘personal liberty’ guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution. Although there is no specific provision in the Constitution prohibiting cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment, the Court has evolved this guarantee from other provisions of the Constitution. Right to privacy has also been spelled out based on the inherent human right to be left alone.

The expression ‘life”’ in Article 21 has received an expansive interpretation. The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘life’ does not connote merely physical existence, but embraces something more, namely “the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely, the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head”. Based on this interpretation, our Supreme Court has held that the right to live with human dignity encompasses within its ambit, the protection and preservation of an environment free from pollution of air and water. Health and sanitation have also been held to be an integral facet of the right to life.

Remarkable craftsmanship displayed by the Supreme Court in promoting fundamental rights has been to incorporate into fundamental rights some of the Directive Principles, such as those imposing an obligation on the state to provide a decent standard of living, a minimum wage, just and humane conditions of work, and to raise the level of nutrition and public health. No right thinking person can object to this salutary approach and development.

Access to justice is universally recognised as a basic human right. In order to achieve it, our Supreme Court has liberalised this rule of locus standi in public law and held that where judicial redress is sought for legal injury done to indigent and disadvantaged persons, who on account of economic disabilities are unable to approach the courts themselves, any member of the public acting bona fide and not for oblique considerations, can maintain an action on their behalf. This is the principle underlying the Supreme Court’s endeavour to ensure that fundamental rights are not merely ornamental, but are made living realities for the weak, vulnerable and marginalised sections of society. This commendable role of the Court is unfortunately overlooked. It needs to be highlighted and admired.

Expanding Oxford English Dictionary: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has added 70 new Indian words from Telugu, Urdu, Tamil, Hindi and Gujarati languages in its latest edition. This edition varies from endearing words such as ‘Abba’ and ‘Anna’ to Indian delicacies such as ‘gulab jamun’ and ‘vada’. This is in addition to often used terms like ‘timepass’, ‘natak’, ‘chup’ and ‘chamacha’.

The newly added 70 words, according to the spokesperson of OED, reflect not only the history of the country, but also the many diverse cultural and linguistic influences, which have shaped and changed the English language in India. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav and the ‘Angrezi hatao’ brigade probably do not approve of this development. But I dare say that the majority of Indians are happy about expansion of the OED and the inclusion of Indian words. Hopefully, a future edition of OED may well include common Parsi ‘bawaji’ words, which will certainly add a lot of spice and colour to the dictionary.

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