13. Judicial Training & Education - Status, Needs, Organization & Strategies

 

13.2 THE FUNCTION OF THE JUDGE

 

13.2.1 The nature and scope of judicial education depends upon the function of the judge in a given society. Broadly speaking, the function of every judge, trial or appellate, is to decide the cases brought before him according to law and in a manner accepted by society as just, fair and reasonable. The credibility and legitimacy of judicial decisions depend not only on its merit and soundness in law, but also on public perception of impartiality and objectivity of the procedure adopted by the judge. This is a delicate task which judges have to internalise when they assume the role of judging.

Organizing a fair trial and determination of facts :

13.2.2 This report looks at only the functions of a trial or an appellate judge in the "Subordinate Courts". The most important of his function is to conduct the proceedings in a fair, orderly and dignified manner. Finding the truth of contested issues of fact is the first concern of a trial judge. Based on facts ascertained, the judge is to apply the law and give his decision on guilt, liability etc. For ensuring "fairness" in truth ascertainment and minimising subjectivity in the process, procedural law gives rights and privileges to litigants, witnesses and officers of court. It is the function of the judge to give maximum protection to these rights and privileges of parties so that justice is not only done but appears to have been done. This is a function which demands a variety of skills on the part of the judge besides knowledge of law. A judge's personality and values influence his decisions and the atmosphere he creates in the courtroom. His body language and tone of voice, his reactions to witnesses, his interaction with others in the courtroom, his manner of ruling on objections, his treatment of advocates all affect public perception of the fairness of the trial.

 

With the introduction of new technologies and changes in law, the judge is confronted with continuing challenges of court management, litigational efficiency and judicial balance in the conduct of trial of civil and criminal cases.

13.2.3 The judges at the primary level also have the responsibility to critically evaluate pleadings, settle issues, handle interlocutory applications and manage introduction of evidence by parties to the dispute. In the process, he may issue commissions and invoke methods of alternate resolution of the disputes before him. The judge has to rule on evidentiary contests on admissibility, relevancy and probative value. He must be able to appreciate evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, and determine facts on the basis of preponderance of probabilities. A judge is expected to be an expert in all areas of the law, though as a lawyer he might have specialised in one or two branches of law only. All these demand knowledges and skills of such range and variety which perhaps no other profession requires from a practitioner. At the same time the facilities and support services available to him are so limited and archaic which make his task all the more difficult and challenging.

Writing Judgments :

12.2.4 On ascertaining facts and after receiving arguments on behalf of parties, the judge has to perform the most important function of delivering judgment on which his credibility and acceptability are determined by the legal community, the parties and the society at large. Judicial reasoning is both an art and a science to be cultivated by every judge by study, reflection and hard work. His competence in language and communication is critical for this task. Complex factual situations have to be analyzed and important legal principles have to be explained to avoid possible conclusions contrary to his own. The judge must be able to put it in such a way that even if the matter goes on appeal, the appellate judge should find it persuasive enough to go by the finding of the trial judge.

Sentencing and Calculation of Damages :

13.2.5 In criminal proceedings the judge has to perform another important function of awarding an appropriate sentence to the guilty. With better understanding of the varied goals of punishments and the nature of human behaviour, the sentencing function has assumed a critical role in criminal justice administration. Similarly the calculation of money damages in a civil court is not that easy as generally believed.

Human Rights Observance :

13.2.6 The emergence of human rights in its varied dimensions in substantive and procedural laws makes varying demands from the trial judge particularly in criminal trials, environmental adjudication, family dispute settlements, juvenile justice and labour relations litigation. The trial judge has to have an abiding interest and wholesome understanding of human rights jurisprudence as developed by international instruments and Constitutional law.

Judge as a Manager of Men and Events :

13.2.7 Finally, the judge has to be an able administrator to be able to move things in a culture in which inaction and delay have been entrenched habits in judicial administration. He has to manage the docket and the ministerial staff intelligently and imaginatively through continuing interaction, motivation, supervision and leadership. He has to keep the bar in good humour with a message of firmness and impartiality. He has to strive for excellence in his job and earn the reputation of being a "good judge".

Functional Skills Needed :

2.8 The judicial function thus is a challenge to everyone who occupies that office. To be able to respond to such a noble assignment of dispensing justice efficiently and impartially, a trial judge, inter alia, has to improve his knowledge and skills on :

(a) the concept and concerns of a fair trial and its operational parameters.

(b) the concept of a fair judge, an activist judge, a firm judge.

(c) the methods of fact-finding in judicial proceedings.

(d) the art of judgment writing.

(e) the science of sentence determination and damages calculation.

(f) management of court proceedings in a fair, dignified, orderly manner.

(g) management of case flow, information, accounting records, court staff, media, etc.

(h) updating knowledge of human rights jurisprudence and emerging areas of litigation brought about by technological changes.

(i) improving professional skills and ethics.

(j) changing social order and democratic governance under rule of law.

2.9 Each one of these items calls for a fund of related knowledges which require inputs from social and forensic sciences, management science, information technology etc. This cannot be had by individual initiatives alone from amidst the daily routine of a judge. Hence the need for scientifically organized and constantly improved system evaluation and training on a continuing basis.