Judges Only Interpret Law, Not Evolve Policy: Delhi High Court Chief Justice

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Judges are only interpreters and are not here to make the law or to evolve a policy and a balance has to be maintained between judicial activism and restraint, said Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel on Friday.

Justice Patel, who will demit the office of Delhi High Court Chief Justice after attaining the superannuation age of 62 years on March 12, said that whenever there is a gap between law and justice, as an exception, there is bound to be judicial activism and the same cannot be a “matter of role”.

“It is for Parliament (to enact laws) and in the absence of law, for the executive to draft the policy… One has to maintain the balance between judicial activism and judicial restraint,” said the judge while speaking at the farewell reference organised by the high court.

“And if there is any gap (between justice and law), a judge has to fill up the gap and that is known as judicial activism. That is inevitable. But as a matter of exception and not as a matter of role. We are not here, this is what I believe personally, to make the law, nor to evolve a policy brand new but we are the only interpreter of the law. But as an exception, as I have said, whenever there is a gap between law and justice, there is bound to be judicial activism,” the Chief Justice added.

The judge said that the primary task of judges is to render justice through judicial orders and that “both the members of the Bar and the Bench owe a responsibility to the citizens and that each one of us is bound by mandate of the Constitution to dispense justice to the last man in the queue”.

He also said that the quality of Bar in the Delhi High Court is par excellence and acknowledged the monumental efforts made by the members of the Delhi judiciary to keep the judicial system running during the pandemic.

During the farewell event, Justice Vipin Sanghi said that it was because of Justice Patel’s dynamic approach that virtual hearings and hybrid hearings before the Delhi High Court were applauded by other high courts and the Supreme Court.

While Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65 years, the retirement age for high court judges is 62.

Justice Patel was appointed as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on June 7, 2019, and authored several landmark judgements and orders.

On November 24, 2021, a bench headed by Justice Patel passed a slew of directions on the safety and security at court complexes following the September 24 shootout that killed three persons in a courtroom in Rohini Court and directed the city Police Commissioner to undertake a periodical review of security arrangements in courts, based on security audit by an expert team, for the deployment of the requisite number of personnel and installation of gadgets.

On October 12, 2021, a bench headed by Justice Patel upheld the Centre’s decision to appoint senior IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner four days before his superannuation on July 31, saying there was “no irregularity, illegality” in his selection and Supreme Court’s directions such as involving UPSC’s panel in the process was “intended to apply only to appointment of a state DGP”.

On May 31, 2021, describing the Central Vista project as “vital and essential”, his bench had allowed construction work on the project to continue and imposed a fine of ₹ 1 lakh on the petitioners for their “motivated” plea.

On November 3, 2020, a bench headed by Justice Patel took suo motu cognizance of the clash between lawyers and police at Tis Hazari court and ordered a judicial inquiry by one of its retired judges into the incident.

Born on March 13, 1960, Justice Patel enrolled as an advocate on July 28, 1984, and practiced at the Gujarat High Court.

He was appointed as Additional Central Government Standing Counsel in 1999 and as Senior Central Government Standing Counsel in July 2001.

Justice Patel was elevated as an Additional Judge of the Gujarat High Court on March 7, 2004, and took oath as its permanent Judge on January 25, 2006.

On transfer, he took oath as Judge of the Jharkhand High Court on February 3, 2009. He was subsequently appointed as its Acting Chief Justice.

Earlier this month, he was appointed as the chairperson of Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) by the central government for a four-year term. Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, Delhi Government standing counsel Sanjay Lao, Delhi High Court Bar Association’s President Mohit Mathur, and others also bid farewell to the chief justice.

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