Opinion

A Judge is not a Knight Errant


Justice Benjamin Cardozo, the celebrated Judge of the US Supreme Court, wrote in his book ‘The Nature of the Judicial Process’ :


” A Judge is not a Knight Errant roaming at will in search of his own ideal of beauty and goodness ”.
I submit with respect that the recent release of a 30 page handbook by the Chief Justice of India for guiding judges to avoid using gender stereotypes is violative of the above dictum of Justice Cardozo.

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If a 30 page handbook is needed for combating gender stereotypes, why not issue a 30 page handbook for combating stereotypes of politicians ? Can they be called crooks in a court order ( which many people think most of them are ) ?


Why not a 30 page handbook for guiding Supreme Court judges as to what words they should use for High Court judges ( e.g. should the Supreme Court in its judgment call the High Court as ‘the Court below’ ? ). And what words should the High Court judges use for subordinate judiciary judges ?


What about 30 page handbooks for civil servants, teachers, lawyers, engineers, farmers, workers, students, doctors etc ?


I submit that judges learn judicial etiquette and most things not from handbooks but by observing court conventions while practising as a lawyer, and as a junior judge from one’s seniors.


It is a long standing, well established, convention that judges should only speak through their judgments, and that is what I was taught by my seniors in the judiciary e.g. former CJI MN Venkatachaliah and former CJI J.S. Verma. Sermons and homilies delivered in 30 page handbooks are not part of a judgment, and are therefore best avoided.

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