Former Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph said that currently the judiciary was divided along political and communal lines in an unprecedented manner. “I have never seen the Supreme Court of India’s Bar so politically and communally divided,” he added. “And that is the situation in several High Courts across the country also.”
The former judge said the developments have resulted in the judiciary losing its moral power and its role of a watchdog. “When things go constitutionally wrong, it has always been the advocates who have been raising their voice,” Joseph said. “Where are they now? They are also divided politically and communally, in protecting their own self-interest.”
Kurian Joseph on Sunday said that the independence of judiciary was under threat due to various factors, including those from inside the institution.
“A judge must have true faith and allegiance to the Constitution,” he said, while addressing a webinar. “This means that a judge’s allegiance should not be coloured by political, communal, philosophical bias, or bias of arbitrariness.”
Unconstitutional Anti-Conversion Laws
On being asked about the recent laws aimed at preventing religious conversions, Joseph said that religion was a matter of faith and conscience, and that conversion “by force, duress or by allurement” was wrong. He, however, noted that the fear of being stigmatised prevailed if a person decides to change his religion.
“A fear psychosis as such is introduced in this country that if you change your religion, you would be either finished or cease to be having a position in society,” he said. “That is certainly wrong, undemocratic, unconstitutional. You have the right to choose any religion of your choice.”
Threat to credibility of institutions
Besides flagging the threat to independence of judiciary, Joseph said that other constitutional bodies were under attack too.
“Election Commission, CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General of India], UPSC [Union Public Service Commission], all regulators – MCI [Medical Council of India], BCI [Bar Council of India], UGC [University Grants Commission], [National] Statistical Commission, RBI [Reserve Bank of India] – take any sector, I am asking you to make an introspection,” the retired judge said. “Has its credibility not been shaken? Is there any investigating agency which has not been attacked on its independence?”
Joseph said that the confidence of all these bodies had been shaken and termed it as a “dangerous trend”, suggesting that they should only depend on constitutional integrity.