The Constitution of India obligates the Indian Judiciary to reach the goal of securing to all its citizens __ Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. How this goal is to be achieved is beautifully summed up in the form of oath or affirmation to be made by the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts while entering upon the office.
Swearing in the name of God or making a solemn affirmation a Judge ordains himself:-
- that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established;
- that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India;
- that I will truly and faithfully and to the best of my ability, knowledge and judgment perform the duties of office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; and
- that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws.
In my humble opinion, the oath of a Judge is a complete Code of Conduct and incorporates therein all the canons of judicial ethics.
The judiciary has been trusted and hence entrusted with the task of upholding the Constitution and zealously and watchfully guarding the constitutional values. The oath administered to a judge ordains him to uphold the Office as a citadel of public justice and public security to fulfil the constitutional role assigned to the Judiciary.
“The concept of independence of the judiciary is a noble concept which inspires the constitutional scheme and constitutes the foundation on which rests the edifice of our democratic polity. If there is one principle which runs through the entire fabric of the Constitution, it is the principle of the Rule of Law and under the Constitution, it is the judiciary which is entrusted with the task of keeping every organ of the State within the limits of the law and thereby making the Rule of Law meaningful and effective. It is to aid the judiciary in this task that the power of judicial review has been conferred upon the judiciary and it is by exercising this power which constitutes one of the most potent weapons in armoury of the law, that the judiciary seeks to protect the citizen against violation of his constitutional or legal rights or misuse or abuse of power by the State or its officers.” This is the principle of independence of judiciary which judges must keep in mind while upholding the Constitution and administering the laws.
Oath of a Judge _ analysed
Every word and expression employed in the oath of a judge is potent with a message. The message has to be demystified by reading between the lines and looking beyond what meets the eyes.
An option to swear in the name of God or to make a solemn affirmation is suggestive of secular character of the oath.
A judge must bear not only faith but ‘true faith’ and ‘allegiance’ to the Constitution of India. The oath demands of a judge not only belief in constitutional principles but a loyalty and a devotion akin to complete surrender to the constitutional beliefs. Why ?
“Under our constitutional scheme, the judiciary has been assigned the onerous task of safeguarding the fundamental rights of our citizens and of upholding the rule of law. Since the Courts are entrusted the duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws, it very often comes in conflict with the State when it tries to enforce its orders by exacting obedience from recalcitrant or indifferent State agencies. Therefore, the need for an independent and impartial judiciary manned by persons of sterling quality and character, undaunting courage and determination and resolute impartiality and independence who would dispense justice without fear or favour, ill-will or affection. Justice without fear or favour, ill-will or affection, is the cardinal creed of our Constitution and a solemn assurance of every Judge to the people of this great country ……. an independent and impartial judiciary is the most essential characteristic of a free society.“ The arch of the Constitution of India pregnant from its Preamble, Chapter III (Fundamental Rights) and Chapter IV (Directive Principles) is to establish an egalitarian social order guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and to secure justice __ social, economic and political __ to every citizen through rule of law. Existing social inequalities need to be removed and equality in fact is accorded to all people irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion or region subject to protective discrimination only through rule of law. The Judge cannot retain his earlier passive judicial role when he administers the law under the Constitution to give effect to the constitutional ideals. The extraordinary complexity of modern litigation requires him not merely to declare the rights to citizens but also to mould the relief warranted under given facts and circumstances and often command the executive and other agencies to enforce and give effect to the order, writ or direction or prohibit them to do unconstitutional acts. In this ongoing complex of adjudicatory process, the role of the Judge is not merely to interpret the law but also to lay new norms of law and to mould the law to suit the changing social and economic scenario to make the ideals enshrined in the Constitution meaningful and a reality.
The sovereignty and integrity of India has to be upheld. Constitution itself would cease to exist, if, God forbid, the sovereignty and integrity of India were lost.
The duties associated with the Office of a judge are too sacrosanct and hence demand the judicial functioning with ‘the best of ability, knowledge and judgment’ of the judges. It is not enough to be a law graduate or to have put in a number of years of practice or to have gained experience by serving as a judicial officer for a specified number of years. Their ability and knowledge associated with the clarity of purpose and methods which the judges display enables the judicial system to perform to its optimum efficiency. The role of the judge obligates him to continue to invest in up-dating his knowledge of law and skills of justice dispensation. The holder of the Office if not able and knowledgeable would not have the confidence to function, much less with independence. It is said :
Strange, how much you’ve got to know;
Before you know, how little you know.