Judges accountable above all to society, says Indian legal luminary

Former Chief Justice of Delhi, Bombay and Madras gives keynote address at Bar Association Convocation
By Nadia Fazlulhaq, Pic by Sanka Vidanagama

An independent judiciary without accountability and an accountable judiciary without independence are highly dangerous in a democratic country, said Ajith Prakash Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi, Bombay and Madras.

Delivering the keynote address at the 36th Annual Convocation of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, held yesterday at Kings’ Court, Cinnamon Lakeside, Mr. Shah said a judge was accountable not to the legislature or the judiciary but to civil society.

Justice Shah delivering his keynote address at yesterday’s BASL Convocation.

Judicial independence and neutrality give the people and parties confidence that a judge will protect human rights more than his own position and that everyone is equal before the judge.

“If the government is involved as one of the participants, judges should not be biased in favour of the government. Everybody should be governed by the same rule, and the duty of the judge is to be independent enough to turn aside an unconstitutional law,” Mr. Shah said.

He added that a judge should protect equality and also protect the minorities. “In every society minorities suffer on various grounds, whether it is race, religion, caste, gender or sexual orientation. The duty of the judge is to protect an individual from abusive action,” he said.

Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, in his address, stressed the importance of instilling work ethics in lawyers, especially juniors and law students. “My office in inundated with complaints against lawyers, and the root cause is a deficient legal education. Skills and values of the legal profession should be developed in law students and seniors should set a good example. It should not be a remedial legal education but a systematic legal training,” Chief Justice de Silva said.

On the same occasion, former Attorney General Shibly Aziz, PC, was inducted as President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka by Attorney General Mohan Pieris, PC.

Court of Appeal President Justice Sathya Hettige, PC, was the guest of honour, and the Minister of Justice and Legal Reforms, Milinda Moragoda, was the special guest of honour.

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