The Chief Justice of Singapore, Sundaresh Menon, said on Saturday said that truth is the foundation on which the rule of law rests, yet truth decay is spreading into court proceedings.
Justice Sundaresh Menon was delivering a talk on the topic ‘role of judiciary in a changing world’ during a programme to mark the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of the Supreme Court, here on Saturday.
Justice Menon said truth is the foundation upon which the rule of law rests, however, a number of recent examples suggest that truth decay is spreading into court proceedings.
He said that Singapore courts have seen a rise in partisan and unreasoned expert opinions, especially in psychiatric evidence that is used in criminal cases and truth decay can also be seen in the conduct of some advocates who have in some cases attempted to conceal facts from the courts or to delay proceedings on spurious grounds.
He emphasised that the findings of the court are generally accepted in the public sphere as generally reflecting the truth.
“If that is not the case, then our rulings become merely another voice in an endless clamour of opinions,” he said.
“The legitimacy of the judiciary depends on broad public acceptance that we are reliable truth seekers and truth finders seeking to do justice according to the lawaaif this trust falls away then the courts are left to operate solely by the force of state power and the belief in and respect for the rule of law in our societies will collapse,” Justice menon said.
He suggested that judiciaries are facing the onset of a number of discreet challenges which strike at either or both of the core requirements for the discharge of judicial duties, namely competence and legitimacy.
Justice Menon also pointed at the breakdown of trust in public institutions and cited a study which found that distrust is now societies’ default emotion in many democratic countries.
He added that less than half the people surveyed said they trusted institutions such as the government and the media. This may well be due to causes such as truth decay but it is just also likely to be due to the sense that public institutions are failing to deliver on their mission, he added.
Justice Menon said that even though the judiciary may not be equipped to handle some of the problems the world is facing, it should be ready to grasp the same.
“When the judiciary functions well, it acts as a glue to hold the parts together. The judiciary needs legitimacy to function well and it needs public confidence. Gaining that confidence requires a lot of work,” he said.
On emerging global challenges, he said the new global challenges will be political first but will also have a legal dimension and “we can expect such disputes to be complex and time-consuming”.