What is Justice?
The letter recently written by four senior judges of the Supreme Court, addressed to the Chief Justice of India, has been widely carried in the media. Actually, the letter came to the public domain when the judges disclosed it at a press conference convened by them. This is an extraordinary event in the polity of India. To put it in the words of Kapil Sibal, the senior lawyer: "The press conference by the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court on January 12 will remain etched in the annals of the Court's history. They demonstrated rare courage and commitment to protect the independence and integrity of the institution".

In their letter, the four senior judges alleged : 'There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justice of this Court selectively to the benches "of their preference" without any rational basis for such assignment.

The judges clarified that "such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent".

The above event reminds one of the arguments in the book, Judicial Activism in India : Transgressing Borders and Enforcing Limits, written by S P Sathe (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002). In writing the history of judicial activism in India, Professor Sathe observed that the political establishment had used the court to legitimise its own decisions. He also raised a fundamental question of judicial accountability and gave his own answer from a moral standpoint "The answer, according to me, is that a constitutional Court has to continuously stride to sustain its own social legitimacy. Through impartial and principled decisions it sustain; people's faith in it. The accountability is also sustained through the Court's concern for the poor, the disadvantaged and powerless minorities".

People should extend the discourse or judicial activism beyond the domain of the judiciary in their search for social justice.
Arup Kumar Sen,

Vol. 50, No.32, Feb 11 - 17, 2018