Frankly admitting that sometimes judicial overreach disturbed the balance between three branches of state, Chief Justice of India [ Images ] S H Kapadia on Wednesday cautioned the Government against tinkering with the independence of judiciary.
"The government may make law for making judges accountable. We are not afraid of that. But it should not tinker with the very constitutional principle of judicial independence," he said.
Speaking on the occasion of Independence Day celebrations in the Supreme Court, he urged the Government while bringing law, it should not lose sight of the concept of judicial independence.
Justice Kapadia was apparently referring to the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill which had already been passed by Lok Sabha and is pending in Rajya Sabha.
A controversial clause in the Bill states, "No judge shall make unwarranted comments against the conduct of any constitutional or statutory institution or officials at the time of hearing matters in open courts during the course of hearing matters."
The bill allows the citizens to complain against corrupt judges, but has been facing criticism for this provision which jurists says would 'virtually gag' the judges in open courts. The Chief Justice said that the government must take the opinion of various jurists and take into account various developments around the world before making law.
"We need to make a detailed study before we tinker with the Constitution," he said while emphasising that any disturbance to balance of power among legislative, executive and judiciary would "damage the Constitution for all time to come.
Admitting judicial overreach, Justice Kapadia said, "Sometimes in our anxiety to do justice, we give judgments which disturbs constitutional balance among three branches of state.
"It resulted in judicial overreach. We must keep in mind the tenets of constitutional principles(of separation of power)."
He cautiouned judges against overreach, saying that "Rights and Privileges are also there for other institutions which should be respected.
"These balances are getting disturbed by our judgments and the judges need to be very careful when they draft their judgments."
The CJI said Constitution has to be interpreted in a broader sense and superficial reading of selected provisions can be misleading.
"I find in this country illiteracy as far as constitutional principles are concerned. We need more and more learning of Constitutional principles and it applies to judges also," he said. Referring to his assuming the top post, he said that it is only in India that a person belonging to a small community can become Chief Justice which is not possible in neighbouring countries.
"I am proud to be an Indian and it is only in India that a person of Parsi community of one lakh population can aspire to be Chief Justice. Such things do not happen in our neighbouring countries. It needs to be appreciated," he said.