NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said that India was an inclusive society, where people of all faiths and religions live in harmony with one another and the spirit of India is tolerance and not intolerance. The ongoing religious intolerance debate had politics in it, he observed.
In an informal media interaction at his residence, Justice Thakur who took over as the 43rd CJI on December 3 said, “People of this country need not live in fear till the time the judiciary is independent. When the Constitution guarantees Rule of Law to those who are not our citizens, there is no question that citizens of India, no matter of what religion or faith should feel unprotected. We (SC) have no reluctance to protect the beliefs of our fellow citizens. As long as Rule of Law prevails, no one has to be afraid.”
“There is politics in the religious intolerance debate. But I am not a politician. As part of the judicial institution, I want to remind you that this country has a history of becoming a home to those who have fled their own countries fearing religious persecution,” the CJI said. On the issue of rising judicial vacancies in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, he said he would prefer to wait till the five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice J S Khehar finalises and pronounces the guidelines for the Collegium.
“It should not be the case that the Collegium makes appointments of judges first and later discovers that the appointments made were not in consonance with the Constitution Bench’s guidelines. It is better to avoid such confusion and wait till the Constitution Bench pronounces the verdict on the Collegium.” the CJI said. He, however, felt filling up the current 400 judicial vacancies would be a big challenge this year and said a proposal to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 is pending and would require an amendment in the law.
Justice Thakur admitted that arrears of cases was a problem and there was a need to fix a time-frame for disposal of civil and criminal matters. Stressing the importance of PIL, the CJI said judges dealing with PILs have to be extremely careful in seeing that writs are not for personal grievances and scrutinise who is acting as a front for whom to sabotage the effective weapon of PIL which is meant for addressing general grievances.
“PIL is an effective weapon. If you give a knife to a surgeon, he will use it to save several lives. But if the knife is given to a butcher, you know the result,” he said.
On post-retirement jobs for judges, Chief Justice Thakur said, “If you don’t need judges anywhere in any jobs, change the law. If you can find a substitute in a politician or a bureaucrat, change the law. If judges are of no use to you, change the law.” He also said that deviant behaviour and corruption among judges would not be tolerated and stressed that maintaining the credibility of the judiciary is the top most challenge for him.
“We will be very intolerant towards deviant behaviour, bribery and corruption. It is not so easy to cleanse the system but you can really bring the guilt to home and benefit of doubt will be given to institution and not to the individuals,” he said.