Courts are temple of justice, must remain open for tired & weary litigants: Justice Kaul

The courts are temples of justice and must remain open to litigants to knock at their doors anytime as citizens are “tired and weary” by the time they reach the apex court, Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said on Friday.

Justice Kaul, who will demit office on December 25 after a tenure of over six years and 10 months as a judge of the top court, was delivering his farewell address on his last working day at a function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

“I have always believed that the courts are temples of justice, and they must remain open to the litigants to knock at the doors anytime. The litigants are tired and weary, more so by the time they reach this (Supreme) court, which is the court of last resort. The bar and the bench exist for them,” he said.

Fondly remembering his days in the top court, he said it is to the credit of the Supreme Court that access to justice has remained unimpeded at all times.

“The challenges faced by litigants who approached this court for resolution of their disputes must remain foremost in our mind while dispensing justice,” he said.

He said he cut his teeth as a judge in the Delhi High Court and his “over-enthusiasm” as a young judge showed in his attempts to “do away with the “adjournment culture” that prevailed in the bar back then.

“I believe that a litigant should not be made to wait indefinitely to know the outcome of his case. It did take the bar a little time to adjust to my ways, which they did finally,” he said, adding intuition and empathy go a long way in judicial decision-making.

He said imparting justice is the duty of the bar and the bench both, and they need to work together to innovate and develop the law and assist people in leading better lives.

“The bar and the bench exist for them (litigants)…The challenges faced by litigants who approach this court for resolution of the dispute must remain foremost in our mind while dispensing justice. The Supreme Court is often called supreme because its decision is final and not because it is infallible. I have had no illusions about this. And I always feel that when I pen down something, it is just an opinion to be agreed with or corrected in the future,” he said.

The bar acts as a check on the judiciary, and this kind of check and balance should be welcomed, he said. “In the same vein, it takes strength and courage to simply arrive at a decision and stick by. Although this is a basic expectation of being a judge, it is not often easy to do so,” he said.

Sharing his experience as a judge, Justice Kaul said, “There is often no right decision, but only the best one in a given circumstance. Find the courage and conviction within you to make a decision and once you do, don’t look back.”

Justice Kaul said he was “walking into the shadows with a sense of fulfilment and a prayer on my lips for the almighty” who allowed him to “serve the people of this great country in dispensing justice”.

Justice Kaul, who was first appointed as a judge in the Delhi High Court, recalled his almost four-year stint as the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana and Madras High Courts.

Recalling his work as the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Kaul said he was “not pleased” with the news of his transfer to the Madras High Court as the chief justice.

But his stint as the chief justice of the Madras High Court became the “most fulfilling period” of his career, he said.

“The general disposition of the people of Tamil Nadu is one of great humility and acceptance. I went to Chennai reluctantly, but ultimately fell in love with the place I found the most enduring friendships, which I continue to cherish today,” Justice Kaul said.

“The chief justice must lead from the front but carry his colleagues along. The chief justice’s job carries both judicial and administrative functions. That said, chief justices need to show judicial leadership by giving precedence to court work and thus administrative work is usually carried out after court hours,” he said.

Justice Kaul said his elevation to the Supreme Court and his tenure of seven years as a judge exposed him to a wide array of challenging matters.

“A judge’s greatest satisfaction is in penning down the judgement which contributes to the development of law,” he said.

He said the Supreme Court is not merely a constitutional court but practically works as a court of appeal, and being the final court, a cautious approach was necessary as the judges were laying the law for the country.

Besides Justice Kaul, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Attorney General R Venkataramani, SCBA president Adish Aggarwala and secretaray Rohit Pandey also spoke at the occassion.

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