Can Marxists call judges nincompoops?

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi -Daily Pioneer published on June 29, 2010

To what extent a political leader or an ordinary citizen can go in criticizing the Judiciary? This is the question being discussed in Kerala’s legal circles after last Saturday’s controversial statement by CPI(M) State committee member MV Jayarajan that some judges were being plain “nincompoops” (Sumbhan in Malayalam) by pronouncing “anti-people verdicts”.

On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court said that Jayarajan’s statement should be examined to decide whether there was a case for Contempt of Court proceedings. The court asked the State Advocate General to appear before it to present his explanation while several senior lawyers said the Judiciary was over-reacting. Legal experts are divided over the question of whether Jayarajan should be taken to task.

Inaugurating an LDF demonstration held as part of the hartal against fuel price hike, the CPI(M) leader had said that some judges were being nincompoops by issuing orders that went totally against the interests of the people. Jayarajan’s outrage was a reaction to last week’s High Court verdict banning all sorts of meetings on the roads and roadsides preventing smooth travel of people.

“Some nincompoops, sitting in the judges’ chairs, were formulating new laws instead of doing their actual duty of interpreting laws,” Jayarajan said. “They should understand that when their verdicts go against people’s rights and interests, they would not even have the value of ‘grass’. Judges should not try to create laws. They are supposed to interpret the laws that people’s representatives formulate,” he added.

However, in the face of widespread criticisms and demands for apology, Jayarajan tried to tone down his remark but this became another controversy. “They are complaining that the word I used was too harsh,” he said, and said he only meant to term such judges as ignoramus. On Tuesday, the High Court said it viewed the Marxist leader’s statement seriously.

The court issued notice to Advocate General CP Sudhkara Prasad for presenting his response on a public interest litigation filed by lawyer TI Edison for the All-Kerala Niyama Sahaya Vedi against Jayarajan’s statement. It also asked the petitioner to re-submit the plea after correcting certain technical errors. A division bench, headed by Chief Justice J Chelameswar, would take up the petition again on Wednesday.

The judges of the Kerala High Court had reportedly held a meeting on Monday to consider the damages Jayarajan’s statement could possibly cause for the credibility and respectability of the Judiciary but no concrete decision had been reached at. While most judges opined that such moves from politicians who looked after people’s interests and rights could lead to a collapse of the Judiciary’s credibility in the people’s minds.

But most of the participants in the meeting were reportedly of the opinion that they should not attach undue importance to such statements. At the same time, one section had argued that the judges need not do anything on their own but such moves could be dealt with when petitions regarding them came up in the court. The Vedi’s PIL had come up in the court in such a situation.

The High Court’s verdict banning public functions on roads had invited widespread criticisms from all sorts of organizations. Leaders of political parties pointed out that even judges themselves were often beneficiaries of the positive results of agitations on the streets. They wanted the judges to remember how India had earned its Independence from the British colonists.

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