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CJI-Designate Bobde on Privacy of Judges, AI in Courts & More

Justice Bobde on death penalty, Ayodhya case, AI in courts, transparency in selection of higher judges and more.

Updated
India
4 min read
Justice SA Bobde (left) is being present the warrant of appointment to Chief Justice of India-designate by Principal Secretary to PM, PK Mishra.
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Chief Justice of India designate Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, on Wednesday, 30 October said that certain things in the Supreme Court need specific attention, like case flow management, staffing of courts, which includes judge vacancies, use of technology like Artificial Intelligence, and legal education, in an interview with NDTV.

In an interview with news agency PTI, he also stressed on the disclosure of the Collegium’s reason on rejecting names for higher judiciary, saying it is not a question of secrecy but the right to privacy.

Justice Bobde, who will become the 47th CJI on 18 November, succeeding Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said a conservative approach on the issue of disclosing the entire deliberations of the Collegium was necessary as "people's reputation are at stake" and it cannot be sacrificed just to satisfy the desire of citizens to know.

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, 63, also rued the criticism of judges on social media for their judicial actions and said most of the judges, who are not "thick skinned", get perturbed.

"I still think that we need to be conservative. The reason is that people's reputation is at stake. We need to be conservative," he told PTI in an interview.

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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," 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.

He also said it is not sensible to give the names of those who have been rejected by the Collegium:

“It is a question of common sense. People may want to know but why do judges have to suffer.”
Justice SA Bobde, CJI Designate
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“Will Take Gogoi’s Steps to Logical End”: On Vacancies of Judges

On the issue of huge vacancies of judges in courts across the country and lack of infrastructure, Justice Bobde said he would take to the "logical end" the steps taken by incumbent CJI Ranjan Gogoi in this regard.

CJI Gogoi had taken note of vacancies and lack of infrastructure in courts and has been monitoring them by issuing directions to all the states and respective high courts to do the needful within fixed time line.

Delineating his priorities as the next head of the judiciary, Justice Bobde said, "The highest priority of any judicial system has to be justice and at no cost it can be sacrificed for anything else because that is the reason for existence of courts and if that is sacrificed, rest does not matter, only goal is justice."

“In that process you have to ensure that it is delivered in reasonable time. We cannot have instant justice. Instant justice has very bad connotation in this world. So justice cannot be unduly delayed and it cannot be unduly hurried. It must come in due time.”
Justice SA Bobde, CJI Designate

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. Nobody likes it".

He also said that criticism of judges, instead of judgements, amounted to defamation.

Justice Bobde said the apex court is likely to have a permanent five-judge constitution bench to deal with lingering constitutional issues.

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“Govt and Judiciary’s Relations Thrive on Mutual Respect”

Speaking to NDTV, Justice Bobde said that the government and the judiciary’s relationship is one that thrives on mutual respect.

He said that the governments have a lot of power, in the sense of giving grants, financial aspect, even the staff selection and the orders are made in the name of the executive. “All orders are made in the name of the executive, like the president of india appoints judges. Hence, the constitution requires the two to function together for the country,” he said.

On AI Being Used in Courts

Justice Bobde, while talking about the use cases of Artificial Intelligence in Indian courts, said that the benefits are plenty, naming a few use cases like a legal research assistant, that answers questions pertaining to a certain case, taking away repetitive tasks live clubbing of cases, etc.

He said that an expert committee, is looking into the use cases of AI in courtrooms.

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(With inputs from NDTV and PTI)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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