Justice SA Bobde, who will succeed Ranjan Gogoi on November 18 as the 47th Chief Justice of India, says cutting down the backlog of cases and streamlining the justice delivery system are his priorities. Excerpts from an interview with Kanu Sarda:
Having been designated as next Chief Justice of India, what will be your line of action to fight pendency?
My first and foremost priority is to study ways by which pendency can be curtailed. We already have a committee which suggests ways by which we can cut down the time spent on each case by the judges. I will see if we can introduce the concept of artificial intelligence so that things become smoother in future.
The Supreme Court is now working with its full strength of 34 judges. Do you think this will help in cutting down pendency?
Yes, of course the pendency of cases will come down and more importantly, there will be more number of constitution benches in place now which couldn’t be constituted by the CJI earlier as the work of the other courts would have been affected. But now things will change and we can devote judges for adjudicating cases which needs constitutional interpretation.
Do you think Collegium decisions should be detailed ones and not just mere recommendations?
Collegium decisions shouldn’t be so transparent that they harm the reputation of a candidate. If a judge’s name is not agreed upon by the Collegium members for some reasons, it need not be put out in public domain because it affects a person’s privacy, which is very important.
Shouldn’t Collegium decisions at least divulge the reasons for transferring judges?
When the Collegium transfers a judge from one place to another, that judge must go there with a good reputation for him/her to be effective. Why should the Collegium say negative things about the judge while transferring him/her? And many times, there are no negative reasons (for transfer). All high courts in the country are important. There is no concept of small or big court; there are only larger and smaller states. All chief justices are equal - equal in status and power.
The Ayodhya case has been pending in the Supreme Court alone for several years. What do you think is the reason?
There were several problems at different stages, like unavailability of transcripts and unavailability of judges for the constitution bench, to name a few. I don’t think the delay was deliberate.
What steps will you take to fill vacancies in high courts and improve infrastructure?
I have a few things in my mind already. I will sit with the committee that looks after arrears of cases and see what best can be done to fill up the existing vacancies and improve the infrastructure so that justice can be delivered at a faster pace.
What do you have to say on criticism of judges and judgments on the social media?
Nobody likes his or her criticism. It does hurt judges as well and at times we feel harassed, too. But there is nothing we can do about it.