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New Delhi: Supreme Court Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has decried “personal attacks” being levelled against judges.
“Give us a break… There’s a limit to how much you can target judges,” Justice Chandrachud said on Thursday, July 27, when a lawyer sought an urgent hearing on a petition alleging increasing attacks on Christian institutions and priests across the country.
His displeasure was over news reports alleging that the Supreme Court was delaying hearing a plea against attacks on Christian institutions and priests across the country. On July 19, some news outlets published a news item with the headline, ‘India’s top court delays hearing anti-Christian violence plea’.
Responding to this, Justice Chandrachud said, “Last time, the matter could not be taken because I was down with COVID. You get it published in newspapers that the Supreme Court is delaying the hearing. Look, there is a limit to which you can target the judges. Who supplies all this news?”
“The news I saw online was that judges are delaying the hearing. Give us a break. One of the judges is down with COVID and this is the reason we could not take the matter,” he continued.
Another judge on the two-judge bench, Justice Surya Kant said, “…Anyway, we will list it, otherwise there will be another news item.”
According to Livelaw, a writ petition was filed before the apex court in April seeking directions to authorities concerned to stop violence and mob attacks against the members of the Christian community. The petition said 45-50 violent attacks on average take place against Christian institutions and priests across the country every month.
The matter was brought to the court by Archbishop of the Bangalore Diocese, Dr. Peter Machado, the National Solidarity Forum, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
The petitioners urged the top court to enforce guidelines issued by the top court in the Tehseen Poonawala judgment under which nodal officers were to be appointed to take note of hate crimes and register first information reports (FIRs).
The guidelines issued in 2018 to the Union and state governments included fast-tracked trials, victim compensation, deterrent punishment, and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials. The court had said offences such as hate crimes, cow vigilantism, and lynching incidents should be nipped in the bud.
In the last week of June, the court agreed to list the petition on July 11. The matter was scheduled to be heard on July 15 by the bench headed by Justice Chandrachud. However, the petition could not be heard on July 15, as Justice Chandrachud was down with COVID.
Earlier, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, too, had expressed concern over “concerted campaigns” against judges in media, especially social media, which he had said, were “ill-informed and agenda-driven”.
“Doing justice is not an easy responsibility. It is becoming increasingly challenging with each passing day. At times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges. Another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of the judiciary is the rising number of media trials,” Chief Justice Ramana had said.
In fact, the Chief Justice’s remarks had come close on the heels of similar “concerns” expressed by another top court judge, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, who had been targeted virulently on social media for the remarks he made during the hearing in Nupur Sharma’s case.
“Social and digital media are primarily resorted to expressing personalised opinions more against the judges, rather than a constructive critical appraisal of their judgments. This is what is harming the judicial institution and lowering its dignity,” Justice Pardiwala had said.
(With PTI inputs)