Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said on Thursday that the country’s laws and legal systems favour the rich and the powerful, The Indian Express reported. He was speaking at a virtual farewell hosted by the Supreme Court Bar Association on his last working day.

“If somebody who is rich and powerful is behind bars, then time and again he will approach the higher courts during the pendency of the trial, till some day he obtains an order that his trial should be expedited,” Gupta said. He said this happens at the cost of the poor litigant, whose trial gets further delayed because he cannot approach the higher courts.

Gupta said that conversely, if a rich and powerful person wants to delay his trial, he can approach the higher courts again and again seeking the same, thus frustrating the prosecution. The retiring judge said the bench and bar have a responsibility towards the poor litigants “to ensure that their cases are not put on the backburner”.

“The most important attributes of the judiciary and judges are independence, fearlessness and impeccable integrity,” Gupta told the audience. “In a country which professes to follow the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers, there is no alternative to a totally independent judiciary.” Gupta added that while arguing matters in the courts, the members of the bar should set aside their political preferences.

“In times of a crisis such as the ones we are living in, the courts must protect the poor and the underprivileged, because it is they who are hit the hardest in trying times,” Justice Gupta said. “When the court does its duty and acts in favour of the citizens, sometimes there will be friction, but a little friction in my view is a healthy sign that the courts are functioning properly.”

Gupta said every judge’s Bible in court should only be the Constitution of India. The retired judge also dismissed criticism from members of the bar that the judiciary is no longer independent or humane, saying that since the judiciary is drawn from the bar, the same question could be put to it.