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58. An Unjudicial Dictum

A correspondent sends me a press cutting containing a report of an Allahabad judgment of two English Judges sitting as appellate court. In delivering their judgment allowing the appeal Their Lordships are reported to have said:
"The case is unsatisfactory because we have no less than five persons who were in effect, if their evidence can be relied upon, eye-witnesses, and yet, having regard to the slight value placed upon truth in this country, we have seriously to apply our minds as to whether they can be believed."
This is an extraordinary pronouncement from a bench of Judges. What legal basis had these two Judges for the sweeping statement made by them as to the character of a whole nation? The inference is that in other countries a higher value is placed upon truth. Now if this was a universally accepted proposition, perhaps the Judges would have been justified in taking legal notice of it. There is, however, not only no such acceptance but experienced observers have testified that on the whole, greater value is put upon truth in India than elsewhere. But no judge should be influenced one way or the other by such observations as have no judicial value. I would go further and say that such observations ought not to be made by any responsible person, even on political platforms. They can never be proved. But when they are made by Judges they vitiate their Judgments and may lead to miscarriage of justice. Be it noted that the Allahabad Judges have made use of their bias in coming to their decision and have thus proved their incapacity to hold responsible posts. The case in which the observation was made affected poor people. But the fact that only poor persons were involved makes it all the more necessary to take public notice of the judges' strictures. Who knows in how many cases this bias of theirs has resulted in defeating justice?

Harijan, 2-4-1940, p. 116