Justice Gupta, who retired on Wednesday, was speaking at his farewell organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) through video conferencing.
In the Supreme Court’s 70-year-old history, Justice Gupta became the first judge to get a virtual farewell.
Justice Gupta said that judges cannot live in ivory towers but must be aware of what is happening in the world around them.
Citing the crisis unleashed due to the coronavirus pandemic, he added the courts must protect the poor and the underprivileged, because they are hit the hardest in trying times.
“In the present day and age judges cannot live in ivory towers but must be aware of what is happening in the world around them. The scales of justice to be really equal, must, in fact, be balanced in such a way that the poor and the underprivileged are not denied justice,” he said in the farewell address.
In the past, Justice Gupta had made bold statements on the misuse of sedition law and also against the attempts to muzzle dissent.
At the farewell, Justice Gupta said in a country which professes to follow the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers, there is no alternative to a totally independent judiciary.
“In times of a crisis such as the ones we are living in, the Courts must protect the poor and the underprivileged, because they are hit the hardest in trying times.
When the court does its duty and acts in favour of the citizens, sometimes there will be friction, but a little friction in my view is a healthy sign that the courts are functioning properly,” he added.
On the criticism of the judiciary by lawyers, Justice Gupta said that it is not the time to blame each other but sought to remind the members of the Bar that the judiciary is drawn up primarily from the Bar.
“Therefore, my request to the members of the Bar is that when they talk about independence or lack of independence of the judiciary, they must also introspect as to whether they have been totally independent or humane,” he added.
Justice Gupta insisted that if real justice has to be done, then the scales of justice have to be weighted in favour of the underprivileged.
“Our laws and our legal system are totally geared in favour of the rich and the powerful. If somebody who is rich and powerful is behind bars then time and again, he will approach the higher courts during the pendency of the trial till some day he obtains an order that his trial should be expedited.
This is done at the cost of the poor litigant whose trial gets further delayed because he cannot approach the higher court,” he added.
Justice Gupta stressed that both the bench and the bar owe a duty to that section of the litigants which does not really have a voice, to ensure that their cases are not put on the backburner.