Outgoing Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu has refused to join the ongoing debate on intolerance, saying that as head of the country’s judiciary, it would not be proper for him to comment on it.
“There is a debate going on in Parliament and other places. As the head of an institution, if I say anything it would not be proper,” he said on being asked about his viewpoint on intolerance.
Interacting with media persons a day before his last working day, which is Wednesday, Dattu, who will be succeeded by Justice T.S. Thakur, described his tenure as the CJI and earlier as a apex court judge as “satisfactory” and said he did the best he could do for the institution.
He evaded a question about his possible appointment as National Human Rights Commission head.
“If it happens, it is OK, if it does not happen, even then it is OK. There are so many things to do in the life,” he said. “The best I could do I have done. I have answered my conscience. I have answered my Guru and I have answered my God.”
Reiterating the position he had articulated in the court on Monday on the nature of public interest litigation, Dattu said: “PIL should be for a cause and not which I had dealt yesterday (seeking CBI probe into the nationality of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi).”
Making it clear that PILs should not be politically-inspired and individual-centric, he said that they should address the larger issue of concerning common man like old-age homes.
“There is a lot to be done in this area, otherwise it will make no sense to the people at large and it would be a nuisance,” he said, noting that during his tenure as CJI, the number of PILs came down “drastically” from eight to nine PILs to just one and two now. He said that every PIL should not be before the apex court only and should be before the high courts too.
On criticism of judicial functioning including judicial overreach, he said: “A judge should not be bothered about what others say but must be answerable to his conscience, Guru and God.”
Saying that judgments should be delivered in a reasonable time after being reserved, he said that at times. there are delays as ticklish issues are involved and there is differing perception among the judges who have heard the cases.
With his tenure seeing pendency of cases coming down from 64,000 to 58,000, he expressed general satisfaction on the working of the taxation bench, social justice bench and the two benches dealing with criminal cases.
Expressing concern over the long pendency of cases, he said cases before the apex court had come down but 220 new cases were filed every day.
He said that many cases involving hearing by five judges could not be taken up as it was not possible to spare that many judges as it affected other cases. Even a bench of three judges was a difficulty, he said.
Chief Justice Dattu had no regrets that during his tenure he could not appoint judges saying that litigation involving challenge to the validity of the NJAC took a bit longer.
“Whatever foundation I have laid for improvement will be taken forward and I have no doubt about it,” he said, adding that today Supreme Court looks “good and clean”.
On a personal note, he said that it was misnomer that the judges enjoy their holidays saying that most of the times they are engaged with the cases and during holidays, they focus on writing judgments of the matters on which orders have been reserved.
“It is a misnomer that judges enjoy their holidays,” he said pointing out that during his tenure, he had never ventured beyond Connaught Place or Khan Market.