16 Sep 2009

Corruption in Judicial Circles: The latest buzz

Factors linking the legislative, executive and judicial functions all in one-common thread may be few but dubiously not all those factors which link the three organs of the State are worth a mention. Corruption seems to be one of them. The Prevention of Corruption Act seems to put the nail on the acts of receiving illegal gratification on the part of those belonging to the executive fraternity. However there is no law for the other two wings except procedures which call for a high-handed play in the hands of the superiors. 

In so much as corruption amongst the law-makers, the country has been witness to the long litigative history of the allegations relating to vote-for-cash scam when the Government of P.V. Narsimha Rao was alleged to have purchased the votes of the Parliamentarians. Also known as the 'Jain Diaries Case', the case tested the mettle of CBI and also the judiciary in handling such high-stake, constitutional law involving sensitive matters and as one often says, 'hard cases make bad laws', we have the outcome of the case i.e. the Court will not (or rather can not) look into what takes place inside the Parliament and what motives the Parliamentarians have behind acting in a particular manner. A Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court gave these errant members the shield of what is known as 'Parliamentary privilege' and thus refused to examine the conduct of the members of the august body who were alleged to have been illegally gratified for having sold their votes. So stands the law even today. [Have a look at this decision, though long, which deals in detail with the issue of Parliamentary privileges]

So the law that stands is that while the acts of the executive wing are constrained under the law, law-makers are immune from legal action towards their activities in the legislature. What about the judiciary?

Well, in as much as the law that currently stands is that while  a judge of a High Court or Supreme Court may be found to have received illegal gratification, in terms of the provisions of the Constitution, such judge can be removed from office only by a procedure known as the 'Impeachment process', which requires an almost unanimous majority in both houses of the Parliament and thereafter upon an order of the President to such regard. So much onerous is the procedure that even though a former Chief Justice of India accepted a high percentage of the judges to be corrupt, yet no judge till date has been removed under this procedure for alleged acts of corruption.

And now we have the latest. News reports indicate that few Senior Advocates of the Supreme Court have lodged claims of impropriety against a sitting judge of a High Court on accounts of corruption. Perhaps this shows that it is high time one considered seriously of revamping the procedures to ensure that even in the judicial circles justice is not only done but also is seen to be done. One would well be guided by the views of the Law Commission on this issue in its 230th Report. But seriously, something needs to be done urgently ...

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