Justice J. Chelameswar, Retired Judge, Supreme Court, delivered The Alladi Memorial Lecture on 23rd February 2023 at the University of Hyderabad. He spoke on “75 Years of Indian Judiciary, Its Independence and Efficiency.” Prof. Srikrishna Deva Rao, Vice Chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad chaired the event.

Justice Chelameswar underlined the importance of the ideals of justice and liberty enshrined in the Constitution. He spoke about how modern democracies have ensured the distribution of power between various branches of the State such as the executive, legislature and judiciary. This distribution of power is done by providing certain checks and balances to make sure that no branch of the State would exercise unbridled power. He said as “the ultimate authority to examine and determine whether any of the elements is acting consistent with” the principles enshrined in the Constitution is entrusted with the judiciary, it needed to be invested with a certain amount of independence. He dwelt at length on how this aspect of independence of the judiciary under the Indian Constitution that had been protected by the security of tenure and protection of the service conditions, had been curtailed in the later years by the practice of the transfer of judges. Commenting on the collegium system, he said that it lacked the much needed transparency. At the same time, he wondered “how the mere presence of the Law Minister in the NJAC [which was struck down by the Supreme Court] along with three senior most judges of the highest court” and members of the civil society would destroy the independence of the judiciary. What is needed, he opined, is formalization of “the consultative process [between the judiciary and the government]” that would lend the much needed transparency to the system in the appointment of judges.

He underlined the importance of the parameters adopted in making the right choice of judges that would ensure the establishment of an efficient and independent judiciary. Towards this end, he underscored the responsibility of not only the various branches of the government, but also the responsibility of the civil society, for whose benefit the Constitutional system was brought into existence by people like Alladi Krishnaswami and other members of the Drafting Committee.

Prof. Srikrishna Deva Rao, Vice Chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad

The highlight of the talk was the question and answer session at the end of the Lecture where Justice Chelameswar very patiently answered the questions posed to him, mainly by the student participants. This session was enabled by the Alladi Memorial Trust that believes in entertaining questions at the end, even though Memorial Lectures customarily do not allow them.

The annual Lecture was organized by The Alladi Memorial Trust in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Hyderabad. Prof. Srikrishna Deva Rao, Vice Chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad chaired the event. The meeting was attended by a large number of students, faculty, members of the legal fraternity and members of the civil society.