IN INDIA judiciary is one of the three pillars having co-existence with legislature and executive. Judiciary is in some way at a higher pedestal amongst these three organs because it is the only mechanism to keep the executive and legislature within their jurisdictions by confining them not to abuse or misuse their powers. It controls, corrects or quashes the executive, however high it is, and even sets aside acts of the legislature if it acts contra-constitutionally. Judiciary is the guardian and final interpreter of the Constitution. It is a place of utmost trust as it is last resort for the people.
It is not negated that corruption is non-existent in certain judicial systems rather it would be fair to say that in some countries corruption is nominal, infrequent and the result of individual, unethical behaviour. It is also evident from the words of the former Chief Justice of India S. P. Bharucha, when he grieved over the rampant corruption in the higher judiciary and brought to notice that around 20 percent judges of the higher judiciary are corrupt. Now the question remains; can the judicial accountability be trusted upon any more?
Does the judiciary hold the same value, as it had earlier? Is the judiciary abusing its freedom? Can judges be permitted to do anything in the guise of ‘independence’? These are the questions which still remained unanswered. Judicial Corruption Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for personal gain. In the context of judicial corruption, it relates to acts or omissions that constitute the use (or it is better to say ‘misuse’) of public authority for the private benefit of court personnel, and results in the improper and unfair delivery of judicial decisions.
In corrupt judiciaries, citizens are not afforded their democratic right of equal access to the courts, nor do the courts treat them equally. The merits of the case and applicable law are not paramount in corrupt judiciaries, but rather the status of the parties and the benefit judges and court personnel derive from their decisions. In corrupt judiciaries, rich and well-connected citizens triumph over ordinary citizens, and governmental entities and business enterprises prevail over citizens. No civilised society can command the people’s confidence if the judicature’s verdict is privately purchased at a competitive price.
Corruption and Indian judiciary A judicial scandal has always been regarded as far more deplorable than a scandal involving either the executive or a member of the legislature. The slightest hint of irregularity or impropriety in the court is a cause for great anxiety and alarm. In last one decade, there are a number of instances where a judge is found to be involved in corrupt practices. This demands a close look in these scandals because if judiciary itself gets corrupted who will judge others. Before taking these scandals we should know the current legal position on corruption as applicable on judges laid down in Veeraswami case.
Veeraswami Case This case is important in many ways. This was the first case where corruption charges were alleged against a judge of higher judiciary. This case dealt with many issues viz. whether judge of a high court or Supreme Court is a ‘public servant’ or not; who is the sanctioning authority for prosecuting a judge of a high court or Supreme Court under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947; whether Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred as Act) is applicable on judges or not etc. Before taking these issues in detail, let us know background of the case.
The appellant had committed offence under section 5(2) read with clauses (b), (d) and (e) of section 5 (1) of the Act. On perusal of the charge sheet the special judge issued process for appearance of the appellant. The appellant thereupon filed a petition under section 482 of Cr. P. C. before the Madras High Court for quashing the prosecution. The Full Bench of the high court by a majority view has dismissed his case. However, in the view that the constitutional question involved in the case the high court granted certificate for appeal to the Supreme Court.
A five judge Bench of the Supreme Court heard the matter and four judgments were delivered. Shetty J. authored the leading judgment, with Venkatachaliah J. , signing with him. B. C. Ray J. wrote a separate but concurring judgment. L. M. Sharma agreed to dismiss the appeal but differ on some issues. Verma J. dissented. RECENT EPISODES In the last one decade, a number of instances unveiled by media and other active organizations where judges were involved in corrupt practices, which show that how corruption has crippled Indian judiciary. Some of them are discussed hereafter;
Justice Soumitra Sen’s Issue In an unprecedented move by the CJI, wrote a letter to the prime minister, recommending that the proceedings contemplated by article 217(1) read with article 124(4) of the Constitution be initiated for removal of Justice Soumitra Sen, Judge, Calcutta High Court. 25 This recommendation was made on the basis of suggestions made by an In-House Committee, in a report submitted to the CJI that Justice Sen be removed from the office. The Committee has in its report accused Justice Sen of breach of trust and misappropriation of Reciever’s funds for personal gain.
The in-house committee found that Soumitra Sen did not have honest intention, since he mixed the money received as Receiver and his personal money and converted the Receiver’s money to his own use. The motion for his removal is not yet initiated. It is expected that the history will not be repeated. If it is repeated it would be a dishonor upon the Indian judiciary and its accountability. Cash-for-Judge Scam CJI Balakrishnan is the first Chief Justice of India who has granted permission to an investigating agency to register of a criminal case against judges of Punjab & Haryana High Court.
This is for the first time that power conferred by Veeraswami case is exercised by any CJI. He allowed the CBI to interrogate two judges of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Nirmaljit Kaur and Nirmal Yadav, in connection with the cash for- judge scam. A law officer sent Rs. 15 lakh to Justice Nirmaljit Kaur’s official residence and later claimed that it was meant for Justice Nirmal Yadav and had been delivered to Justice Kaur by mistake. Apart from these episodes there are few more instances where judiciary got shammed.
Like, Justice Jagdish Bhalla, Chief Justice Himanchal Pradesh High Court was also traced in dealing with such mal-practices when he got a plot on nominal price by a land mafia, who was one of the parties to a case before him. In all above stated instances the judges, being a public servant, were alleged to be involved in corrupt practices even though the recourse of the Act was not taken. There is no justification as to why judiciary did not take recourse of the Act and went for process of removal under article 124, which is next to impossible. *** RTI solution has not been edited in keeping with the view of other legal essays.