Outgoing Chief Justice India Ranjan Gogoi on Friday expressed his inability to have one-to-one interview with scribes and lauded the press for its 'maturity' and 'character' in preventing 'canards and falsehood' in 'trying times' of the judiciary.
Justice Gogoi also created a history on Friday by reaching out through video conferencing to 650 high court judges and the country's 15,000 judicial officers facing many challenges including the 'missing infrastructure' or 'even reckless action from local members of the Bar'.
Justice Gogoi, the 46th CJI and the first from a north-eastern state, said it was not the requirement of the Supreme Court that judges 'reach out to our citizenry through the press'.
'Such outreach (to the press) ought to be symbolic of an extraordinary situation demanding an exception to the norm,' said Justice Gogoi who would demit office on November 17, a Sunday.
Justice Gogoi and three other senior most apex court judges -- Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph had held an unprecedented press conference on January 12, 2018 alleging that the administration and allocation of cases in the apex court, then headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra, was 'not in order'.
In a three-page common letter to journalists, the CJI declined the request for interviews and said: 'I would not be able to meet your request for a one-to-one meet.'
The letter said: 'I am keen that you would appreciate that the ordinary freedoms are finely balanced in our institutional functioning -- while you have the Bar whose members can exercise their freedom of speech to the extent of even pushing the boundaries of such freedom, the bench requires its judges to maintain silence, while exercising their freedoms.
'This is not to say that Judges do not speak. They do speak, but only out of functional necessity, and no more. Bitter truth must remain in memory.'
The CJI lauded the role of media for its reportage during the 'trying times' of the apex judicial institution.
'Good press is also a parameter amongst others that is known to be indicative of our institutional health. In such view, I do wish to put on record that by and large, the press corps has been kind to my office as well as to our institution during my tenure at the helm of the institution.
'Even during trying times. When our institution was keeping an ambush or two at bay, most members of the press displayed maturity and character ad exercised exceptional discretion to prevent canards and falsehood from clogging the news space,' the letter said.
Justice Gogoi said that as a public functionary, who was entrusted with onerous Constitutional duties to perform, the idea of "courting the press" never came as a choice for him in the interest of the institution.
'I chose to belong to an institution whose strength lay in public confidence and trust earned not through good press, but through our work as Judges on the bench.
'In fact, our work-places are, by our functional necessity, required to be public places as justice is ordained to be delivered in presence of ordinary citizens to ensure that it is never far removed from them. In that view, our institutional connect and interface with the citizenry is proximate,' the letter said.
Though the CJI is officially retiring on November 17, a Sunday, Friday was his last working day.
Meanwhile, an official of the apex court said that Justice Gogoi interacted with the judges of various high courts and their benches at 36 places and with judicial officers in 837 district and taluka courts across the country.
In his speech, Justice Gogoi said that he always considered challenges of the job and hardships of life to be stimulating and intoxicating, making the grit and determination stronger.
Conveying a sense of satisfaction and great hope, the CJI said: "I would carry with me knowing that our institution and its processes rest on the strong shoulders of the finest citizens of my country, who have chosen to lead this life of hard work and sacrifice for the greater cause of justice."
He said during his time at the helm of the institution, he witnessed how the institution of judiciary was 'fighting against all odds on all front and how each one of you at your respective stations have kept the hope of justice resolute amidst disorder and socio-economic upheaval'.
"I am aware that many among you have to face daily challenges in the form of missing infrastructure or even reckless action from local members of the Bar, yet do not forget ever that you are a part of a greater narrative that has a major role in unifying and integrating the citizenry and strengthening the justice delivery architecture of the nation," the CJI said.
Justice Gogoi complimented them for working hard to bring down the 50 year and 25 year pendency figures across the board and asked them to continue the good work saying 'let our flag keep flying high in the times ahead'.
He said each member of the judiciary was a 'nation builder' and their day-to-day duties towards citizens at large and to the litigants in particular are all part of 'one single mechanism'.
"Let me assure each one of you, who has joined us today from the Districts and the outlying stations that different levels of your Institution are working towards minimizing if not eliminating your hardships and difficulties.
"I for one always considered the challenges of the job and the hardships of life to be stimulating and intoxicating making the grit and determination stronger," Justice Gogoi said.
Justice Gogoi was given a farewell by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) during a low-key affair where no customary speeches were made.
Almost all the judges of the top court, including Chief Justice-designate S A Bobde, were present during the function where the outgoing Chief Justice was felicitated by bouquets by the officer-bearers of Supreme Court lawyer body.
SCBA Acting Secretary Preeti Singh informed the gathering that the farewell function was kept a low-key affair without any speeches on the insistence of the outgoing chief justice.
SCBA president Rakesh Khanna welcomed the guest and said CJI Gogoi has been one of the finest judges which the apex court has seen.
CJI Gogoi, who was seated alongside Justice Bobde and Justice N V Ramana, was smiling and talking to other brother judges and accepting greetings from the lawyers.
Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were also seated along with the judges.
After lawyers felicitated the judges, refreshments were served to the dignitaries.