"Independence of Judiciary is realised by an individual Judge remaining independent": Justice Krishna Bhat in his farewell address

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Justice Krishna Bhat also mooted for narco-tests for judges, Lokayuktas and other higher officials if there are allegations of misconduct against them. 

Justice Krishna Bhat of Karnataka High Court, in his farewell speech, said that  threat to ‘Independence of Judiciary’ is a myth. 

He emphasised that independence of the Judiciary is realised by an individual judge remaining independent.

The High Court held a farewell function for Justice Bhat, as he is superannuating on August 7, 2022.  The judge further said that if a child of the judges of the most superior court in the country call the judicial officers at his residence with eager litigants in tow with “an attempt to pass slips and thereafter, drop the name of their forebear with hints of protection", then there is a serious problem to the independence of the judiciary.

Justice Bhat was appointed a judge of the High Court in May 2020. In his speech, the judge made a sweeping suggestion stating that judges, Lokayuktas and other higher officials should subject themselves to narco-analysis tests if there are allegations of misconduct against them.

Highlighting that the suggestion may appear absurd and drastic, he said, “This must be applied when allegations are made against judges and if there is a feeling that the complaint is motivated and false then even the complainant should undergo such tests.”

Speaking of excesses committed in the name of protocol, the judge said excessive adherence to protocol is a vanity that judges should avoid. Justice Bhat cited the example of a High Court judge who wrote to the then Chief Justice to take action against a District Judge because the latter did not receive him personally at the airport.

Justice Bhat said, ”Such Judges render themselves unfit to hold any public positions. Such vanities are destructive of judicial independence”.

The judge also recollected an instance where a Principal District Judge had procured a costly saree to present to the spouse of a dignitary from New Delhi who was on a private visit.

Having served as a District and Sessions Judge and served in Bidar, Tumkur, Raichur, Belagavi and Bengaluru Rural districts, Justice Bhat was made the Registrar General and Director of Karnataka Judicial Academy before he took charge as Additional Judge of the High Court of Karnataka.

By way of advise to trial judges, Justice Bhat said, "You will be independent so long as you avoid doing excesses in the name of protocol. You will be independent if you undertake administration including recruitment processes in a fearless and independent manner regardless of possible ‘phone calls’ and ‘slips passed’ and inevitable possible reprisals.”