Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Tuesday said that a judge, when on the Bench, cannot defend himself against even “motivated attacks,” while a retired judge can do so when the need arises.
Justice Ramana made these remarks at a farewell event for Justice R Subhash Reddy, who demitted office on Tuesday after serving for over four years in the Supreme Court.
The CJI earlier in the day sat with Justices Reddy, Surya Kant and Hima Kohli for the ceremonial hearing in the court at noon and was effusive in his praise of the outgoing judge, saying he upheld and protected people’s liberties and has compassion and consciousness about social realities.
At the farewell function organised virtually by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Justice Ramana said retirement is just like “freedom regained”, particularly for a judge, as he is then free from all the restrictions that come with the office and can express his views on all issues “freely and frankly”.
“When on the Bench, a judge cannot defend himself against even motivated attacks. A retired judge is free to defend himself, when the need arises. I am sure Brother Reddy will make the best use of new found freedom,” he added.
Justice Reddy, who was elevated to the Supreme Court on November 2, 2018, has the distinction of being the first judge from Telangana, and with his retirement, the total strength of Supreme Court judges has come down to 32 against the sanctioned strength of 34.
In his remarks, Justice Reddy raised the issue of pendency of cases and called for bringing drastic reforms keeping in mind the present-day needs of society.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and SCBA President Vikas Singh were among others who also spoke on the occasion.
“I have always cherished his strong support and friendship in all 30 years of our association. I give him my best wishes. Justice Subhash Reddy is the first judge from Telangana to become a Supreme Court judge after the new state was carved out,” the CJI said at the ceremonial hearing at noon.
Justice Ramana said that Justice Reddy, like him, belonged to an agricultural family and achieved many milestones in his journey as a legal professional.
“Throughout his tenure as a judge for 20 years in different high courts and the Supreme Court of India, he always upheld and protected the people’s liberties,” the CJI said.
Justice Reddy took up several death penalty cases, and would spend an immense amount of time on them to ensure that the person gets a fair chance at justice even at the last stage, he added.
“On the Bench, I personally witnessed his analytical skills while deciding cases of Anuradha Bhasin, Foundation of Media Professionals, and Shah Faisal v. Union of India.
“Justice Reddy, during his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, dealt with several sensitive questions of law and penned down more than 100 judgments. I have also shared a bench with him and have benefited from his opinions and acumen,” Justice Ramana said.
Justice Reddy is known for his “compassion and consciousness about social realities”, the CJI said, adding that the outgoing judge will be remembered for his dedicated commitment to the administrative side of the Supreme Court.
The CJI recalled his association with Justice Reddy from his days as a lawyer and said he practiced for 22 years at tribunals, civil courts, the Andhra Pradesh High Court and also before the Supreme Court in civil, criminal, constitutional, revenue, taxation, labour, company and service matters on both original and appellate side.
“His field of specialisation was in Constitutional Law. He was standing counsel for several premier institutions,” Justice Ramana said.
It is not easy to bid farewell to a friend who is known to you for nearly four decades, he said.
At the SCBA function, Justice Reddy spoke about the backlog of cases in the courts and the gradual “decline” in efficiency and quality of justice.
“Deterioration of human values had its impact in rising cases and crimes. All courts have a huge backlog of pending cases, every year this backlog swells in size due to an increase in cases,” he said.
“Unless we come up with comprehensive planning giving time-lines for disposal of cases, the present system may not work. It’s high time for all stakeholders to think seriously to bring drastic reforms keeping in mind the present-day needs of society.”