Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Saturday said justice must never ever take the form of revenge, a day after four men accused of raping and killing a woman were shot dead in a police encounter near Hyderabad.

The chief justice said the justice system must reconsider its attitude towards laxity in disposing criminal matters and that the judiciary must be aware of the changes and perception about itself, PTI reported.

“Recent events in the country has sparked off the old debate with new vigour,” Bobde said while speaking at an event to inaugurate the newly constructed building of the Rajasthan High Court. “There is no doubt that the criminal justice system must reconsider its position and attitudes towards laxity and the eventual time it takes to dispose of the criminal matter.”

“But I don’t think justice can ever be and ought to be instant, and justice must never ever take the form of revenge,” Bobde added. “I believe justice loses its character when it becomes revenge. There is a need in the judiciary to invoke self-correcting measures but whether or not they should be publicised is a matter of debate.”

Referring to the massive backlog of pending cases in the courts, Bobde advocated making pre-litigation mediation compulsory so that it could help avoid litigation altogether. “We have to devise methods for not only speeding up litigation but all together preventing it,” he said. “There are laws which provide for pre-litigation mediation.”

At the same event, President Ram Nath Kovind also expressed concern over access to justice. He said the judicial process was not within the reach of a common man. “The judicial process has become expensive, even beyond the reach of common man due to many reasons, especially in the High Court and the Supreme Court where it has become impossible for common litigants,” he said.

“Today, can any poor or deprived person come here with his complaint?” he asked.
“This question is the most important because in the Preamble to the Constitution, we all have accepted the responsibility of providing justice to all.”

Bobde also spoke about the unprecedented press conference by four senior judges of the Supreme Court in January 2018 to flag concerns about the handling of the institution by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. He said it was a “a self-corrective measure”.

“I believe the institution [judiciary] must correct itself and indeed it did during the time when the much-criticised press conference was held,” he added. “It was nothing more than a self-corrective measure and I do not wish to justify it. All judges were eminent and Justice [Ranjan] Gogoi in particular showed great competence and led the judiciary from the front.”

Telangana encounter

In the early hours of Friday, the Telangana Police had said the four men accused of raping and murdering a veterinarian were killed in an encounter when they were trying to flee from custody. The accused had tried to flee when they were taken to the murder site to reconstruct the crime scene and allegedly snatched a weapon and fired at the police, resulting in a cross-fire.

The accused – Mohammed Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu – were arrested on November 29 for allegedly raping and killing the woman before burning her body two days before. The four were under judicial custody and lodged in high security cells in Cherlapally Central Prison.

The National Human Rights Commission on Friday had sent a team to immediately conduct a spot inquiry and said the matter needs to be investigated “very carefully”. Human rights organisation Amnesty International India had also criticised the killings, saying the incident sets a “disturbing precedent of circumventing the legal system” and called for an independent inquiry.

A number of other people had also warned about the dangers of “extra-judicial killings” while several politicians praised the Telangana Police and the government for “delivering justice”.

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