Outgoing Supreme Court judge Justice R F Nariman on Thursday said merit must be the predominant factor in the selection of judges to the top court so that people’s expectations about the quality of justice are met. Speaking at a farewell event organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) for his retirement, Justice Nariman said, “I believe there is a legitimate expectation in the people of India and the litigating public to get a certain quality of justice from this final court. For that, it is very clear, merit must predominate, subject, of course, to other factors.”
Seconding SCBA President and Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who made a pitch for more direct appointments from the Bar to the Bench, Justice Nariman said, “It is time more direct appointees were elevated to this bench… I would also say, and exhort those direct appointees who are asked, never to say no. It is their solemn duty having reaped so much from the profession, to give back,” he said.
Nariman, who was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court on July 7, 2014, was elevated directly from the Bar — only the fourth such appointment in the Supreme Court. Earlier in the day, as is customary on the last working day of a judge, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana sat with Nariman on a ceremonial bench and said that with his retirement, “I feel like I am losing one of the lions that guarded the judicial institution; one of the strong pillars of the contemporary Judicial System”.
Heaping praise on Justice Nariman, the CJI said he “is a man of principles and is committed to what is right”.
The CJI pointed out that Justice Nariman, in his seven years in the Supreme Court, disposed of nearly 13,565 cases.
“All I can state is that with judgments like Shreya Singhal (wherein the SC quashed Section 66A of IT Act, 2000), his opinions in Puttaswamy (privacy case) and Shayara Bano (holding triple talaq unconstitutional), he has left an indelible mark on the jurisprudence of the country. His judgments reflect his erudition, clarity of thought and scholarly approach,” the CJI said.
Addressing the farewell event, CJI Ramana said judges have to be prepared for a number of personal sacrifices, including monetary, like in the case of Justice Nariman, who had a successful practice when he agreed to take up judgeship, said the CJI. “One must be moved by a spirit of public duty to take such a decision,” he pointed out.
Justice Ramana also spoke about the “misconception” in the minds of people that judges have an “easy life”. “There exists a misconception in the minds of the people that judges stay in big bungalows, work only 10 to 4 and enjoy their holidays. Such a narrative is untrue. It is not easy to prepare for more than 100 cases every week, listen to novel arguments, do independent research, and author judgments, while also dealing with the various administrative duties of a judge, particularly of a senior judge… Therefore, when false narratives are created about the supposed easy life led by Judges, it is difficult to swallow,” explained the CJI, adding that it’s the duty of the Bar to refute these “false narratives and to educate the public about the work put in by judges”.
Attorney General K K Venugopals said that Nariman is “not just a judge”, but an “authority on religions of the world…religious scholar” and that “his judgments contributed significantly to the development of jurisprudence in the country”.