Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Sunday said there was growing intolerance in the society against the judiciary, especially being fuelled through social media, The Hindu reported. Kaul said that judges were being accused for their decisions and the judicial institution was being damaged when the tendency to criticise crossed certain boundaries.
“Criticism of a viewpoint or a judgement is not a problem, but when imputations and grading start being made, I think we damage the very institution,” Justice Kaul said, according to PTI. “The unfortunate part is that in some of us, those who have been part of the institution itself, there is a problem of ‘after me the deluge’. Which is that since we [retired judges] are gone, everything is going wrong. I will say that itself is a danger.”
Kaul made these remarks while addressing an online lecture – Freedom of Speech in times of Covid-19 - Fake News and Misinformation – organised by the MBA Academy, The Madras Bar Association.
The judge’s remarks came after former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, in a recent article on The Wire, said that the apex court deserved an ‘F’ grade for the manner in which it handled the migrant crisis during the coronavirus pandemic. Kaul was part of the Supreme Court bench that on May 28 took suo motu cognisance of “certain lapses” in government measures to help migrant workers.
With the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic and public transport being suspended in the last two months, several migrants workers have initiated perilous journeys home due to the lack of means to support themselves.
Kaul added that “there is a tendency to be critical in a manner which crosses certain lines”. He said that members of the public, bar and judiciary should appreciate challenges of any system. “While criticism is always information that must come to us, I think some boundaries need to be maintained,” he said.
In a reference to social media, Kaul said that it was difficult to regulate the platform and doing so would harm freedom of speech. He said that while it was possible to hold the media accountable for their writings, this could not be said for social media.
The judge said that unnecessary and unverified WhatsApp forwards were contributing to the spread of fake news. “Fake news is more dangerous than coronavirus itself,” Kaul said. “Its ramifications are manifold.”
He added that intolerance had exceeded limits as people rush to courts if the opinion is contrary to theirs. “We are becoming increasingly intolerant of opinions that do not match ours and this is prevalent in all sections unfortunately,” Kaul said. “So people who hold opposing views may be called by each other as a ‘Modi Bhakt’ or an ‘Urban Naxal’ or other labels. What is perceived as the middle ground becomes the casualty.”
On Saturday, the Bar Council of India had disapproved the “sustained and synchronised attack” on the Supreme Court, allegedly by “some senior advocates and former judges”. They had termed it a conspiracy to “weaken and browbeat” the institution.