Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said on Wednesday that independence is the “very soul” of a functioning judiciary and must remain constant in the face of “continuous and recurrent waves of onslaught”. He made the remark in Sochi, Russia, while leading an Indian delegation at the two-day conference of chief justices of members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Hindustan Times reported.

“Independence of judiciary is not a one-time pill – it is a ‘state of affairs’ that has to remain constant in the face of continuous and recurrent waves of onslaught aimed at disturbing such ‘state’,” he said. The chief justice said people of every country aspire to have an independent judiciary.

Gogoi said that in India, the judiciary and the executive enjoy a “healthy relationship of mutual respect”. The chief justice referred to the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Independence of Judiciary, saying that countries that invest in strong judicial infrastructure are more likely to have stable governments.

Gogoi also asked judiciaries of member countries to stand up against populist forces, The Times of India reported. He said some populists in power had been claiming that judges were the “unelected who overturn acts of elected majority”. However, it is for us to recollect that such situations across the world have heaped tremendous pressure on judicial organs, and it is no surprise that in some jurisdictions, judiciary too has succumbed to populist forces, he said.

Gogoi added that appointment of judges should be “non-political”. This was a rebuff to arguments that the executive must have a role in the appointment of the judiciary.

Earlier this month, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that neither he nor his ministry were a mere “post-office” in the appointment of judges. In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down the National Judicial Advisory Committee Act, which introduced a role for the executive in judicial appointments.