Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and senior advocate Dushyant Dave on Saturday said the judiciary is failing in its duty to hold the executive accountable and remind it that it is answerable for its actions.
Speaking on the 'Role of Judiciary in Pandemic' in a webinar, Dave said that the role of the judiciary during a pandemic is very interesting and important one but the judiciary is "singularly and systematically compromised".
Dave said, "nobody wants the judiciary to interfere in the daily functioning of the executive but it must hold the executive answerable."
"It's really sad that the SC, instead of reminding the executive that they are answerable for their actions, reminded the people of the country during the lockdown that they can be punished for violating the lockdown rules under Disaster Management Act."
"When it came to the large migrant labour population of the country, the judiciary has failed us. This is the same judiciary that failed us during emergency... During the ADM Jabalpur case. Role of the judiciary during a pandemic is very interesting and important one but the judiciary "is singularly and systematically compromised," he said. He alleged that judges are "not willing to follow the Constitution."
"The same Supreme Court had failed the people of this country during demonetisation exercise... Judges cannot sleep over such things," he said.
He added that people, as visible on social media, are highly critical of the judiciary and the SC for not holding the executive answerable.
"If the judiciary's conscience is dead it is the duty of the lawyers to stir up that conscience. We need to galvanize the judiciary into action. Crisis cannot be simply overlooked by us as lawyers, citizens, civil society and certainly not by Judges."
"We will be failing the nation if we overlook the situation and history will remember India as not a democracy that protects rights of the people but as a country that protected those in power," he said.
Dave added that if names of sitting SC judges are found in suicide notes of chief ministers and CJIs are accused of sexual harassment then the executive is bound to take advantage of such a situation. Dave further said that the media today does not focus on this aspect at all.
"Nobody in media holds a debate on why the prime minister declared a lockdown with such a short notice, why preparation for pandemic did not begin sooner and such. The media blamed the Markaz for spread of COVID-19 but did the loud media question why the government allow the attendees to come into India in March for attending the Markaz? Sadly even the judiciary went completely silent," he said.
The lockdown has brought the judicial functions to a standstill because our judiciary is not technologically advanced, he said.
"The CJI himself said on another platform that the technology for virtual hearings is not satisfactory. There has been no dialogue between the SC Bench and the SC Bar regarding how to energise and synergise better functioning of the Court in such a pandemic and crisis," he said.
Dave added that the pandemic has given the opportunity to the judiciary to rise to the occasion and prove that it is proactive.
"Pandemic really gave judiciary a chance to win over the hearts of the people by taking proactive steps in the time of crisis and earn back the respect it once commanded," he said.