New Delhi: Extensive criticism on social media bothers judges of the Supreme Court as well, Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate SA Bobde said on Wednesday.
Justice Bobde accepted that not all judges are “thick-skinned” and that many of them get disturbed by what is spoken about them on social media.
“In fact, most of the judges, who are not thick-skinned, get perturbed,” said the judge who will take over the helm from incumbent CJI Ranjan Gogoi on November 18 as the 47th top judge of the apex court.
When asked about his views on the criticism of judges on social media, Justice Bobde said there is nothing wrong about raising questions on judgments or the rationales of the orders. “But that criticism of judges, instead of judgements, amounts to defamation… that should not be done,” he said.
On being asked whether criticism of judges on social media bothers him, Justice Bobde said, "To the extent that it might affect the performance of courts and I see judges who feel harassed. To that extent, it bothers me," adding that no one likes being harassed and the judges are no different in that sense.
Justice Bobde also disapproved of making public the names of judges and the reasons why the Collegium had not found them suitable for elevation to the higher judiciary and in the Supreme Court. He maintained that it cannot be lost sight of that people's reputation are at stake, which cannot be sacrificed just to satisfy the desire and curiosity of the citizens to know.
"I still think that we need to be conservative. The reason is that people's reputation is at stake. We need to be conservative. Half of the complaints which come are not true. I am saying half as a phrase. And I think that the collegium and the court should be conservative in these matters," he said.
The statement by Justice Bobde, who was part of a nine-judge Constitution bench which declared right to privacy as a fundamental right, assumes significance in the wake of a growing clamour for more transparency in the functioning of the apex court's Collegium.
Justice Bobde, who will have a tenure of over 17 months as the CJI and is due to retire on April 23, 2021, was responding to a question on whether any steps are required to make the Collegium's functioning more transparent.
"So when you weigh this (privacy) against the need of a citizen, who has nothing to do with him, to know.... If you weigh this against the ordinary curiosity. For an ordinary person, it is a kind of curiosity that he wants to know. If you weigh these two, then it is important to be conservative than to disclose everything," he said.
Batting for the right to privacy of those who have not been selected by the Collegium for appointment or elevation as judges in the higher judiciary, he said they also have a "life to live" and why should their negative details be put in public domain.
"It is not a question of secrecy but question of privacy. I am not saying that we should resort back to older method but I am saying a recent decision was taken by the Collegium that we would give the names of all those only who we are appointed and not of those who are rejected or reasons for rejection," Justice Bobde said.
For the first time in the history of judiciary, the then CJI Dipak Misra had in 2017 taken a decision to make public the recommendations of the Collegium on the apex court's website. He gave an illustration saying if a serving high court judge is denied elevation on account of some reports placed before the Collegium, he or she has to still hold the court.
"Say as example, the Supreme Court relies on some material and decides that he is not suitable and if all those materials are put in public domain, then he will say that okay do not consider me for judgeship. Why consider me and then give me a bad name. After that also I have to sit in court and decide the matters," he said.