Much has been said in the electronic media in particular over the past few days concerning the slandering, criticizing and threatening of judges in the online media on judgments delivered by them. Among them was the allegation that telephone lines of a judge who had given a dissenting judgment in a politically-sensitive case had been tapped and his email hacked. Even the Bar Association of Sri Lanka had taken the matter up with due seriousness and had even indicated their willingness to pursue legal action against the wrong doers.

One thing that we all should bear in our minds is that in a multi-judge bench any judge has a right to differ in his opinion for which he gives his reasons. That is the very reason why there are panels consisting of several judges where verdicts are given according to the majority opinion. The traditions have been part of our judicial system for centuries. Whether a judge is right or wrong is a matter of opinion and no outsider should have the authority go into that except a higher court in appeal.

As pointed out by the Bar Association, judges unlike politicians or other officials are not supposed to come out and defend themselves when they are attacked through the media. Like others, judges are also subject to all human frailties and there have been enough incidents both here and abroad where judges have even been removed or punished for wrong doings. But there is a well-established procedure for doing so without damaging the entire institution.

Merely opening the gates of the media to bring unsubstantiated and baseless allegations against the judges will only bring the entire judiciary into disrepute in the eyes of the ordinary people who often look up to the institution for relief whenever they are wronged. A free judiciary is an important element in a democracy and safeguarding the sanctity of that institution is a sacred duty of all the people.