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British era laws can’t be used to thwart dissent in a democracy: Justice RV Raveendran

Speaking to APN News Editor-in-Chief Rajshri Rai on the India Legal show, Justice Raveendran, said the people's confidence in the judiciary is of utmost importance. He was joined on the show by former CJI Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, former Supreme Court judge Justice (retired) B. Sudarshan Reddy and National Law University Visakhapatnam Vice-Chancellor Professor Surya Prakash.

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Former Supreme Court judge Justice (retired) R.V. Raveendran has said legal provisions introduced by the British to thwart the freedom movement should not be used in a democracy. In his reaction to Justice Dr D.Y. Chandrachud’s recent statement that criminal laws, including anti-terror statutes, should not be misused for quelling dissent, Justice Raveendran said there may be need for a law like that but such draconian laws should not be used to thwart dissent in a democracy.

Speaking to APN News Editor-in-Chief Rajshri Rai on the India Legal show, Justice Raveendran, whose book Anomalies in Law and Justice was recently released, said the people’s confidence in the judiciary is of utmost importance. He was joined on the show by former CJI Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, former Supreme Court judge Justice (retired) B. Sudarshan Reddy and National Law University Visakhapatnam  Vice-Chancellor Professor Surya Prakash.

Justice Raveendran said, “The power of the judiciary doesn’t lie in deciding cases or in imposing sentences, (but) it is the public confidence in judiciary that matters.” As long as the judiciary is able to maintain its credibility, democracy is able to survive and sustain and if the judiciary loses its credibility, the survival of democracy would be at stake, he said.

He said, “I am sure the judiciary is in a position to stand up to and face contemporary challenges and serve society in the best possible manner.”

Speaking on access to justice, Justice Raveendran said rich people engage better lawyers, fight their cases better, and because their case is put forward in a better manner, they have a chance of succeeding, whereas, the poor, who do not have the benefit of the best lawyers, are not able to present their cases, therefore, the system provides for appeals, review, and curative petitions.

The checks and balances of the justice system should not be seen just from the point of view of the accused, who has committed a heinous crime, but also from the point of view of an innocent person, who is convicted. Therefore, appeal and further appeal is absolutely necessary, Justice Raveendran said.

Speaking on the challenges for the courts, the need is for them to be vigilant and decide cases quickly. Justice Raveendran said, “When the case of a rich person comes, the court should be vigilant enough to not get carried away by the false evidence. And if the case of a poor person comes, the court should be vigilant enough to remember that he is not able to present his case properly and ensure justice.”  

Commenting on the pendency of cases, Justice Raveendran said alternate dispute resolution mechanisms should be encouraged.

Congratulating  Justice Raveendran for his book, Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy said the book was not mere reading material and ought to be studied.                                                                             

Asked about the challenges faced by the judiciary and the role of bodies, such as the Law Commission, he said: “It is the constitutional duty and obligation of Parliament and the legislature to amend, modify, rationalise and repeal laws as law making is essentially the function of the legislature. Moreover, the Law Commission’s role is only recommendatory. The jurists may make their opinions.”

When asked about the feasibility of increasing judges’ retirement age, he said that the experience of judges must be used and the age of retirement can be increased to 70.

Speaking on the multiplicity of laws and the seriousness to rationalise laws, former CJI Justice K. G. Balakrishnan said multiplicity of laws is not a real problem but the multiplicity of authorities created by the laws is creating problems. On archaic laws, Justice Balakrishnan said there should be a very efficient committee of top professors, jurists to come up with proper amendments to such laws.

When asked of similar cases before benches and judges may give different decisions, with varying sentences, fines, he said that there is always some personal prejudice with every judge, their own philosophy that comes into play. However, an experienced judge would know what is the sentence to be imposed.

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Speaking on the corrections needed in the justice system, Professor Surya Prakash said the country has been following the same Indian Penal Code (IPC) from 1861 till today and there are some procedural defects in the system, like the abandoning of the jury system, and there are some mismatches between the IPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc).

On political parties and their ideology impacting law making, Justice Raveendran said: “In a democracy, people vote for different parties with different philosophies, therefore, it is expected that parties make laws which suit their political philosophies.”

“Only the constitutionality (of a law) can be examined by the courts, not the wisdom behind it. Therefore, one must realise that the courts also have their limitations,” Justice Raveendran said.

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