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One advocate is making a website where lawyers can rate judges on 3 parameters

Dhananjay: Judges are human beings, feedback could help them improve
Dhananjay: Judges are human beings, feedback could help them improve

Karnataka high court and Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay has commissioned a web developer to build a website that is intended to allow advocates to rate judges on three parameters - knowledge, integrity and cordiality.

Dhananjay, whose recent research that only 7 per cent of Supreme Court cases concerned constitutional issues found resonance in February in even the apex court bench, said that the site would start by allowing rating of Karnataka high court judges and expand to include other courts soon.

Legally India has interviewed Dhananjay about the project.

Why do you want to set up a website to let advocates publicly rate judges?

It is important that judges should get to see for themselves, the public perception that they carry. We do not have any such avenue at the moment in India.

Judges are human beings just like everybody else and a reliable feedback from lawyers could let them improve themselves. Take the Karnataka high court. It has some of the finest judges in India or may be, even in the world.

At the same time, there are bad apples too. The fact that there are good or even exemplary judges insulates bad judges from public criticism and the net result is that bad judges have no incentive to improve.

Is this going to be limited to rating judges of the Karnataka high court only?

Not at all.

The Karnataka high court is merely the beginning and very soon, it should feature the judges of the Supreme Court as well.

This much said, I don’t think there is any real ground to exclude judges of different high courts in this country from such a public mirror.

So, in a short time, we should be able to get on one website, advocates to rate any judge of any High Court or the Supreme Court in this country.

What would be the criteria for rating a judge?

Well, this is going to be a learning curve. To begin with advocates would rate judges on three criteria:

- ‘Knowledge of law and depth of understanding’

- ‘Honesty and integrity’

- ‘Cordiality and professionalism’

The scale would run from 0 to 10. A score of 0 would mean the least quality.

So, a score of 0 on ‘honesty and integrity’ would mean that the judge is terribly corrupt?

Obviously. A score of 0 on that scale would mean that the rater thinks that the judge in question is exceedingly corrupt.

What about fake ratings?

We already live in a world of social networks and it is too late in the day to worry about electronic impersonation.

How does this rating system work? Are advocates going to register or there will be some kind of scrutiny to only let advocates to come in?

It would be nearly impossible, as things stand, to ensure that advocates alone are allowed to rate.

While we would request advocates alone to use our rating system, the current state of technology or surveillance cannot ensure that our intention of allowing advocates only to rate is fully honoured.

So, it is entirely possible that a few impersonators could abuse this rating system. However, robust surveillance systems would minimise such a possibility of abuse. We will not be storing personal information with us and that way, the person rating any judge would be assured that it is anonymous and safe for him to speak his mind.

What about contempt? Does this constitute contempt? Will you be slapped with contempt for this?

Well, I do know the law.

I have carefully read the law of contempt and nothing that I propose to do and nothing of the planned outcome would constitute contempt of any court.

That is fine and could merely be your perception. A court of law may hold otherwise!

Granted. The law is not merely what we honestly take it to be.

A court of law has the final say in determining whether an act constitutes a contempt of court and I do not rule out the possibility that a court might construe all of this as contempt and seek to punish me.

You see, law, like everything else in life, must rest on personal conviction and I am glad to tell you publicly today that I do hold a personal conviction that I do not breach any law by what I intend to do and I am willing to face the full legal consequences of my forthcoming act.

That means, you are willing to be jailed?

Of course.

I am deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s saying that it is not the prison that is a problem but the cause for imprisonment. I would surely invite imprisonment if that is the price I should pay to follow my own moral and intellectual conviction in service of public good. Six months of jail is not a deterrent for me to follow my own conviction. I will gladly and willingly suffer it.

Jail is not a deterrent?

Yes.

I am not a coward.

Period.

Is this a commercial venture or a charitable case?

It is purely a charitable act and there will be no profit of any kind.

What is the timeline for all of this?

Two or three weeks from today to feature Karnataka high court judges and within a month of it, we should have all the judges of the Supreme Court.

A short time of two or three months after that should witness every other high court judges put on the rating scale.

Will there be a comment section or it will merely be a rating scale?

At this point of time, I do not see it desirable to introduce a comment section.

Does it not carry the risk that the public may lose faith in the judiciary if many of them are rated negatively?

First and foremost, the issue will be that of judicial credibility.

Should the website earn the trust of the legal fraternity and show judges in the actual light that they are in, the consequences flowing from the public getting to know how judges are viewed by the advocates are not for me to be too worried about.

Who is anybody to tell me that my creative energy is not welcome if its use would expose the truth for what it is? Further, there is a different way to look at it.

Consider the case of a judge who would score highly on all three parameters and nobody can rule out the possibility of a good number of judges scoring exceedingly well on all three parameters; should not the good thing in such judges be publicly acknowledged?

Please elaborate…

Say you are an advocate and you think that you know the law very well and that a particular judge who disagreed with you is lacking in knowledge of the law.

What if you tune into this and you find that the judge in question is in fact, drawing very high scores on the knowledge front?

That should make you reassess your own learning or your perception about the judge or both.

That way, you will get more grounded and you will more reliably learn from your peers’ perception.

So, should judges be pleased with your site?

Well, yes and no.

The good ones will be pleased with it and the bad ones will obviously be unhappy with it.

I would consider this effort to have paid off well when it motivates the bad judges to improve themselves and to narrow the gap between them and the average or good judges.

So, good judges simply have no reason to fear?

You are right.

I would not like to see this effort lead to any person unfairly rate any judge.

Moreover, going forward, if this site turns out to be unreliable or prone to manipulation, it surely should be ignored.

By the way, I am a strong critic of poor judicial salaries. Take a look at our judicial salaries. They are akin to minimum wages.

I would have requested the Collegium to raise judicial salaries if only they were open to that idea.

If you own a bicycle but insure it to a sum befitting a Mercedes Benz, an economist would readily see a mismatch.

Today, the size of our economy is close to 2 trillion Dollars and yet, what are we spending on judicial salaries vis-à-vis our defence?

Rs 5 lakhs per month for a trial judge, Rs 10 lakhs per month for a High Court judge and Rs 15 lakhs per month for a Supreme Court judge is the currently acceptable salary, in my view. And, I will someday soon fight to secure it.

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