New Delhi: A strong and independent judiciary was capable of protecting people from attacks on the inclusive values of Indian society, Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said on Sunday.
CJI Thakur, who took charge as India's top judge on Sunday, also asserted that there would not be any tolerance towards corruption and deviant behaviour in the judiciary, and stressed that the task of finding suitable people to be appointed judges to fill vacant posts was not an easy task.
He also endorsed the Delhi government's decision to allow only even and odd numbered cars to ply in Delhi on alternate days from January 1 in a bid to curb rising air pollution.
"As the head of the institution that upholds the rule of law and protects the constitution, the right of all sections of people will be protected," the CJI said in his first media meet after assuming charge.
"Our existence is itself based on tolerance," he said, wondering how some political people can twist it to their advantage.
Assuring that judiciary was there to protect and safeguard people's rights, he said: "We are capable of protecting the rights of all sections of the people. It is our responsibility. Rule of law and constitutional guarantees are enshrined (in the constitution).
"What to talk of citizens, rights of all the people will be protected. There is nothing to fear," he said, adding: "The rule of law is even for non-citizens."
So long as there was rule of law, constitutional guarantees and an independent judiciary, "tab tak kisi baat ka dar nahin hona chahiye (till then, one should not fear anything)".
Citing the long, rich and all-inclusive traditions of India, he said: "This country has been a home for all religions of the world. People who were persecuted in other places have come here and flourished."
Describing it as "our heritage", Chief Justice Thakur gave the example of Parsis who came from Iran, saying they gave India the best industrialists and "finest legal minds", in a reference to legal luminaries Nani Palkhiwala and Fali Nariman.
Expressing support for the traffic restriction move, he said he would not mind walking down to the Supreme Court from his Motilal Nehru Marg residence or even boarding a bus.
Supreme Court judges pooling cars would send the right message, he said.
"If a judge of Supreme Court can pool cars (with brother judges), it sends a message to the people that we have no problem," he said. "We can walk down or even take a bus."
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hailed Chief Justice Thakur for his support.
"(His) support to odd-even formula is welcome and a huge encouragement," Kejriwal tweeted. "Supreme Court judges pooling cars would inspire millions to follow. Thank you My Lords."
CJI Thakur asserted that there would be no tolerance towards deviant behaviour and corruption by judges.
"We will be intolerant towards deviant behavior and allegations of corruption and cleanse the institution," he said.
On juvenile crime, he said that there was a bill before parliament and he was holding 14 cases to see what emerges. On the demand for abolition of death penalty, he said he was aware of the strong movement for this purpose but noted that for various reason, including terrorism, it was being retained in several countries, including some of the advanced ones.
"In India, the death penalty is awarded only in rarest of the rare cases."
Describing judges as a valuable "human resource", he said they could be used even after their retirement.
Addressing criticism that the judges were getting posts after retirement, he said: "If you think judges should not be there (on tribunals and commissions), you change the law and remove them from the system."
The chief justice also observed that the appointment of 400 judges to fill vacancies in the higher judiciary was a mammoth exercise and not an easy task to perform.