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‘Judges not robots’: SC justice GS Misra slams ‘contemptuous’ ToI report on (un)punctuality

Supreme Court justice GS Misra has responded to a Times of India column, in which senior court reporter Dhananjay Mahapatra had criticised how SC judges at times were late to their own courts during the summer vacations. Misra wrote in her letter, published in today’s Times, that judges’ time is not “dirt cheap” and they “cannot be expected to give an account of every single minute or else face derogatory publicity”.

Misra added that it was “irresponsible and contemptuous reporting” to “denigrate the image of the institution” without disclosing “full facts”. Mahapatra’s report had cited views of advocates and judges, such as former chief justices of India (CJI) VN Khare, RC Lahoti, YK Sabharwal and M Hidayatullah, retired justices BN Srikrishna and RS Sodhi and senior advocate Ravishankar Prasad in support. Mahapatra responded under Misra’s letter that he stood by the story, which was “based on facts”. [Times of India]

Misra wrote:

“While writing irresponsibly on the subject in a derogatory style with enthusiasm, ignoring its negative impact on the judicial system, your newspaper and the Sr. Editor/Reporter Mr Dhananjay Mahapatra were expected to apprise themselves of full facts that while the Court during the vacation resorted to some flexibility in fixing its time schedule for taking up the matters, it also functioned beyond the Court hours to cater to the heavy Cause List mentioned at the last minute by the counsels to take up matters out of turn in view of their urgency, due to which it had to sit late in the evening daily atleast upto 7 p.m. in order to clear the orders for their dispatch as the orders were of urgent nature.”

“Thereafter, the Judges also had to go through the next day's heavy paper books till late in the night and mornings for long hours. In the process, if the Court exercised some discretion by keeping the time schedule flexible during the vacation, without scarifying on the output, as judges also ultimately are human beings and cannot be expected to behave like robots, it was surely not expected to print irresponsible and misleading stories with half-baked facts.”

“It is high time to realize that while the time of lawyers and litigants are precious, the time of Judges also are not dirt cheap who go out of their way to tackle loads of matters and work for much longer hours besides what they devote beyond the working hours in Court and yet expect them to give an account of every single minute or else face derogatory publicity.”

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