Chief Justice-designate Sharad Arvind Bobde on Sunday said that it bothered him to see judges who “feel harassed” on social media for their judicial actions as they find it difficult to ignore the criticism, PTI reported. Bobde will take oath as the next chief justice on November 18, a day after Ranjan Gogoi retires from the top post.

“To an extent. Yes. It bothers me,” Bobde said in an interview with the news agency. “That it might affect the performance of courts and I see judges who feel harassed. To that extent it bothers me. Nobody likes it. Everybody is not thick-skinned enough to ignore. Judges are also normal human beings.”

Bobde claimed the unrestricted criticism on social media forums were not only scandalous, but were also “tearing apart” the judges’ reputation. He said the judicial system cannot do anything on “this kind of media as of now” and that they did not know the measures required to address the matter.

“On top of that, there is a grievance that there is no freedom of speech,” Bobde said.

The chief justice-designate said that justice should be the highest priority for the institution as it was the reason for the existence of the judicial system. He said that justice must be delivered within a reasonable time.

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Bobde said that “instant justice” cannot be carried out, and that it had a very bad connotation in the judicial system. Justice cannot be excessively delayed or hurried as it must arrive at a “due time”, he said.

On the question of whether a permanent five-judge Constitution bench would look into significant matters, he said that the Supreme Court is likely to have such a bench. He said that the state and central governments were making sufficient provisions towards the infrastructure of the judiciary in the country.

Bobde called for the judiciary to transition to “modern functioning”, including the use of artificial intelligence for “dispensation, not to substitute a judge, not to substitute a judge’s discretion”. He said it would help in conducting speedy and accurate justice.

The Supreme Court judge said he would take the matter of a number of vacancies in court across the country to its “logical end”. He said Gogoi had taken note of this along with the lack of infrastructure in courts, and directed states and High Courts to find remedies to the problems within a specific timeline.

In an interview on Thursday, Bobde had described the January 2018 press conference of the Supreme Court’s senior-most judges, as a “disturbing event”. The chief justice-designate said that the situation back then was difficult, adding that it was very different now when the relationship between the judges was better.

In January 2018, Gogoi and Justices Madan B Lokur, Jasti Chelameswar and Kurien Joseph, held an unprecedented press conference and levelled allegations against then CJI Dipak Misra of violating conventions and allowing the executive to interfere in the court’s affairs. They alleged that “democracy is in danger”. All the judges except Gogoi are retired now.

In another interview, Bobde had said that he was not opposed to the death penalty if the law provided for it. He said he was not in favour of disclosing information on the collegium’s rejections of members of the higher judiciary, adding it was because people’s reputations were at stake.

On Wednesday, he had refused to comment on the United Nations’ statement that the Supreme Court was slow in dealing with petitions concerning freedom of movement and media curbs in Jammu and Kashmir.

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