Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Wednesday said that the mere right of the public to change their ruler once every few years by itself need not be a guarantee against “tyranny”, The Indian Express reported.

The chief justice pointed out that in the 17 Lok Sabha elections held so far, Indian citizens have changed the ruling party or a combination of parties eight times.

“In spite of large scale inequalities, illiteracy, backwardness, poverty and the alleged ignorance, the people of independent India have proved themselves to be intelligent and up to the task,” he said, while virtually speaking at the 17th Justice PD Desai Memorial Lecture. “The masses have performed their duties reasonably well. Now, it is the turn of those who are manning the key organs of the State to ponder if they are living up to the Constitutional mandate.”

Ramana said a public discourse, that is reasoned and reasonable, was essential for functioning of a democracy. Quoting legal scholar Julius Stone, he added that elections, criticism and protests are “integral to the democratic process”.

Delivering the lecture, Ramana also said that judiciary cannot be controlled, directly or indirectly, by the legislature or the executive, or else the “rule of law” would become illusory, PTI reported. “For the judiciary to apply checks on governmental power and action, it has to have complete freedom,” he added.

He also said judges should not be swayed by the “emotional pitch of public opinion”, which is amplified by social media. This, Ramana said, was not “necessarily reflective of what is right and what majority believes in”.

The chief justice stressed that it was imperative to start a discourse on how social media trends can affect the institutions. “The new media tools that have an enormous amplifying ability are incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad and the real and fake,” he said.