God Save the Hon’ble Supreme Court is a description of cognitive dissonances within the Judges of the Supreme Court. This book is divided into several chapters dealing with different issues. The fabric of this book has been woven around the press conference conducted by the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and went public with their grievances and also about the controversy about the decision making authority of which judges would be given what cases.
The title of the book in itself is quite critical and enough to gauge the depth of this book.
The first few chapters of this book revolve around the unprecedented events that took place in the past few years at the Indian Judiciary and the rest of the chapters are general essays. Senior Advocate Nariman was dismayed towards the step taken by the four senior-most judges and made this whole internal process limpid in front of the public and made them question the integrity of the supreme body of justice. Nariman was of the view that the manner in which parliament is working is not satisfactory and needs ethics. He furthermore showed his genuine concern regarding the attitude of the majoritarian government towards the minorities of the country and how the government is failing in prohibiting the attacks on their identity. He has discussed the role of the media in the country as one of the pillars in a healthy democracy. In the last chapters, Nariman then talks about Justice Krishna Iyer and Sr. Advocate R.N. Trivedi.
Fali Nariman is a person who doesn’t need any sort of introduction; he holds various positions and is known for his brilliant advocacy. When a person of his credentials writes a book, it is bound to make waves.
His book is a reminder that the institution of the Supreme Court of India is cast in stone, permanent. The judges, men and women, who occupy the institution, are but birds of passage. They come and they go. However, their frailties, ego, collegiality do shape public opinion about the Supreme Court. [Rajagopal, Krishnadas (2018) God Save The Hon’ble Supreme Court review: Put on notice https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/god-save-the-honble-supreme-court-review-put-on-notice/article24996120.ece/amp/]
In the first chapter of the book, Nariman has discussed various recent judgments of the Supreme Court and describes, how and why the whole controversy about “who is the master of the rooster” came into existence. According to him, both the CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Chelameswar are accountable for the controversy. Firstly, when Chelameswar, along with other colleagues, wrote a letter to CJI Dipak Misra about the assigning of specific cases to lower-ranked Judges and asked for an explanation, CJI blatantly ignored his colleagues’ concerns. Secondly, when Chelameshwar was asked in his courtroom for mentioning, he in spite of referring it to CJI, ordered the setting of a constitution bench to hear the medical college corruption case. Negligence was done by both of them; he said in his book that “a singular lack of spirit of collegiality has been exhibited amongst the judges, especially amongst the five senior-most including the CJI. A pity indeed!…”.
And the way he evaluates the conduct of both the judges and upholds the idea of professional ethics and morality is something persuasive in this chapter.
In the second chapter, Nariman has discussed the gravity of the misconduct done by these senior judges. According to him, if they had some grievances they must have stayed muted for some time. They could quit from the system and then they could have gone to criticized it as a matter of fact. Doing things like that shook the belief of the public in the judiciary. He also discussed that these conducts only makes the government in power rejoice and instigate them to step in. Perhaps this book is a source of discomfort for many but through this chapter, he taught all his readers that how an act of enormity can shatter the whole system. He euphemistically explained the concept “the Citadel never falls except from within.” He also mentioned the Hostility between the senior-most judge (Judge No. 2) and the Chief Justice precisely on account of similar situations has occurred in the past as well, such as between Justice Kuldeep Singh and Chief Justice Ahmadi, and between Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, where seniority was established merely on account of the order in which the oath was administered at the swearing-in ceremony of the judges. In both cases, by virtue of this seniority, the latter became the Chief Justice of India. This resulted in strained relationships between these two sets of judges, but they did not take the rifts within the collegium to a public platform. [Agnes, Flavia (2019) When rivalry trumped decorum in the highest court https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.asianage.com/amp/books/140419/when-rivalry-trumped-decorum-in-the-highest-court.html]
In the third chapter, an interesting part is the open criticism of the members of the parliament. At times, it is necessary to make the people in power realise that the masses are watching them. Nariman has focused on ethics and morality in politics. According to him, as time is passing, these ethics have gone missing. Being a member of parliament is a great responsibility and a privilege as well. He said in his book that MP’s might not remember the fact that they have taken the oath of discharging their duties faithfully. Being a member doesn’t mean they just have to sign the register outside the hall. If they are not exhausting their powers which came from the people who elected them, it is unethical. One must be loyal to his duties, and for explaining this, he referred to an example of Somnath Chatterjee(former speaker). Somnath was from CPI(M), and during the Confidence motion against the UPA government in 2008, he acted neutrally because of his post as a speaker. Later on, he was driven out of his party for not participating in the confidence motion. The chapter provides a terrific exposition of the problems afflicting the major functionaries under the Constitution and practical suggestions to address the issues.
In the fourth chapter, Nariman has discussed the power of judges and how power, along with wisdom, can bring a change in society. He stressed on the judge’s role of interpreting the constitution and how the judiciary acts as a bridge between the government and the governed. This is a must for everyone who loves to read about the three pillars of Indian democracy and their deep concerns which are eloquently mentioned by Nariman, and along with this, several anecdotes will foster you to pursue more until it ends.
In the fifth chapter, Nariman has described the importance of the art of advocacy in matters related to constitutionalism and scrutiny of legislation. This chapter is a great help for all the aspiring advocates.
In the sixth chapter, Nariman has discussed freedom of expression and how it plays a vital role in the government. This chapter is a source of information for everyone who wants to pursue journalism. It talks about the etiquette journalists require in his/her life. He also describes the significance of the media in the justice system. He talks about the well-defined boundary which every profession has and the relation between the rights and duties. He used the reference of Jessica Lal Murder and the role of media, in that case, is something inspiring. This chapter is filled with factual information and will substantiate the knowledge of the reader.
In the seventh chapter, Nariman, as a senior lawyer highlights the problems faced by minorities and how this majoritarian rule has failed to live up to expectations of minorities. Nariman doesn’t talk about the things spreading on social media, but his arguments were neutral, like that of a jurist, and were quite clear, which makes the reading of this chapter more engaging.
In the eighth chapter, Nariman has discussed the nature of Article-14 of the Indian Constitution and how this law primarily deals with discrimination. The exciting part of this chapter is the emphasis laid by Nariman on the Rule of Law and how elasticity in the constitution is crucial for meeting the needs of the future.
In the last couple of chapters, he talks about experiences with the people of the bar and the bench. He remembers Nani Palkhivala and KL Mishra (former Advocate General of UP), and out of respect has a chapter dedicated to RN Trivedi, the former Advocate General of UP. He also wrote a special chapter on Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who is described as “Super Judge” and another glorious chapter, is on the significance of advocacy in constitutional cases.
The Title of the book, God save the Hon’ble Supreme Court is a clear indication of how Nariman feels about the present condition of the Supreme Court of India. Written in his inimical style, the book is a delight to read for any practicing lawyer or a student of law. But it also needs to be read by our policymakers, lawgivers, politicians and bureaucrats for it contains a wealth of information about the bar, the bench, and issues that concern us today. [Agnes, Flavia (2019) When rivalry trumped decorum in the highest court https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.asianage.com/amp/books/140419/when-rivalry-trumped-decorum-in-the-highest-court.html]. It is a brilliant piece of law and society written by Fali S.Nariman. He explained in this book, how the mishandling of sensitive cases had endangered the court’s integrity. Nariman highlights the positives and negatives of the past few years, the highest court of India has passed through and how it can emerge unscathed from turmoils in the future. The author has done enormous research, and every fact is explained so wisely that the reader can’t wait to finish the book. The book also gives a chance to peek into a dark box of secrecy of the collegium system, which is quite rare in itself.
(The writer of the book review is a 4th-year law student at the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.)