So, what is the role of a judge in a democracy that Justice Khanna fulfilled? This question has perplexed jurists, philosophers and judges for as long as democracies have existed. I write this on his fourteenth death anniversary because this is a question which every judge in a modern democracy has, at some time or the other, been confounded with. Justice Khanna too faced this question, and provided us the answer with his action.
At the same time, for crystalizing this role, I am inspired by Justice Aharon Barak, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. He assigns two basic roles of the judge in a democracy. As per Justice Barak, these are: (i) to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law; and (ii) to bridge the gap between the law and the society. In the words of Justice Barak,
“Each Judge is a distinct world unto himself. Ideological pluralism and not ideological uniformity is the hallmark of judges in a legal system.’ [Fali S Nariman, before Memory Fades, Introduction, at xv; See also, Justice Cardozo performed similar examinations—with great success—in his books, particularly in Benjamin N. Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921)].