Thursday, January 13, 2011

Third Pillar Of Democracy Crumbling

The judiciary has always been respected in India. That corruption has crept also in the judiciary is depressing. It questions the integrity which so far has been a distinguishing characteristic of the courts.

There seems to have been some black sheep in the courts, this is what the Supreme Court of India recently said.

A division bench of the Supreme Court, consisting of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra observed that “something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court”, that several judges suffered from the “uncle judge syndrome”, and that it “really needs some house-cleaning”.

The judges made the observation while scrapping an order which a single-judge Bench of Allahabad HC had passed without territorial jurisdiction, asking the Bahraich-based Wakf Board to temporarily allot land to a circus.

In a harsh allegation made to the HC, the judges added, “We are sorry to say but a lot of complaints are coming against certain judges of the Allahabad High Court relating to their integrity.”

According to the bench, certain judges had their relatives practising in the same court. “Within a few years of starting practice, the sons or relations of the judge become multi-millionaires, have huge bank balances, luxurious cars, huge houses and are enjoying a luxurious life. This is a far cry from the days when sons and other relatives of judges could derive no benefit from their relationship and had to struggle at the Bar like any other lawyer."

The apex judicial body would have not come with such a statement had there not been serious irregularities being committed in the HC. Common citizens hold the courts in great reverence and see it as the last resort for justice. The loss of this credibility would be tantamount to public opinion, which already have a firm belief that the Executive is corrupt, losing faith in the very structure of democracy.
Perhaps this is why when the High Court sought expunction of the stringing rap, SC stuck to its rebuke saying that it was time of ‘introspection’ and not of ‘reaction’. Although it clarified that “the remarks were directed only at some members of the HC” and that “there are many excellent judges in Allahabad HC who are working hard and doing their duty honestly and we have not painted everyone with the same brush”. It, however, said, “We can quite understand the anguish of some of the judges of Allahabad HC, but we cannot overlook the fact that these are times when introspection is required, and not mere reaction. We request the Chief Justice of the HC to consider our order in that spirit.”

The Supreme Court also urged the Chief Justice of the HC to take strong house cleaning measures, including recommending transfers, of the “incorrigibles”.

Recently, there were verdicts that question the integrity of certain judges. In the Babri Masjid title suit verdict which is based on astha of Hindus even neutral secularists criticized the way the honourable court reached to the conclusion that Babri Masjid site was actually the exact birth place of Rama. Some even called it a ‘panchayat decision’. Even the former Chief Justice of India Justice E Ahmadi termed the verdict a ‘panchayat decision’.

Questions have been raised even on the way judges are appointed. “In the midst of all-pervasive pollution, it is a matter of great astonishment that the Supreme Court still sees, and that too so belatedly, that 'something is rotten in Allahabad High Court.' When almost everything is rotten, the word 'something' seems ludicrous and makes concessions for the goings- on. If the system of the appointment of the Honourable Judges of the High Court is rotten, it is preposterous to expect that the atmosphere may be free from corruption, irregularities, malpractices, nepotism and partiality,” commented Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani practised for more than a decade as advocate at Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court. He goes on adding, “To become a High Court Judge one has to have the requisite standing as advocate, good or bad no criterion. What is required is the strong political manipulation, and if both combinations exist, there is no impediment for a rotten lawyer to become 'His Lordship'.”

Just a few months back a few Chief Justices of India made headlines for alleged ‘questionable judgement’. Tongues have started wagging against the courts, which have been above suspicion all these years. This is a bad omen for the Third Pillar of Indian democracy. It is time to restore the waning trust of public in the judiciary.

By Abu Talha Altamash

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