MY LORDS, THERE’S A CASE AGAINST YOU
VISIT : https://sites.google.com/site/sosevoiceforjustice/questions-chief-justice-of-india-is-afraid-to-answer
Former Union law ministers are spearheading a campaign against sitting judges they accuse of being corrupt. What is the higher judiciary doing to clear itself of these grave charges?
Avinash DuttNew Delhi
Under observation: The Supreme Court of India
Photo by K. Satheesh
Senior lawyers have complained to the CJI and the President that Justice Bhalla illegally amassed properties
The campaign by some senior lawyers and former law ministers who have questioned the integrity of sitting high court judges is set to ratchet up the growing confrontation between the legislative and the judicial arms of the government. Former Union law ministers Shanti Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani are leading the battle against what they claim are corrupt practices in the highest echelons of the judiciary.
Bhushan has categorically condemned the rot he feels has set in the judicial system. “The judiciary of this country is not merely unaccountable, but corrupt and brazenly so,” he wrote in a letter to President APJ Abdul Kalam on December 17. Bhushan has demanded that the President initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Jagdish Bhalla of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahbad High Court. On December 14, a Supreme Court (SC) collegium recommended that Justice Bhalla be appointed the Chief Justice of the Kerela HC.
Bhushan and Jethmalani, along with noted lawyers and former justices, including Rajendra Sachar, Indira Jaisingh and Hardev Singh, have formed the Committee on Judicial Accountability (COJA) and presented documents to the Chief Justice of India (CJI), YK Sabharwal, to support their complaint against the sitting judges. COJA complained to the CJI on July 11 that Justice Jagdish Bhalla had amassed several illegal properties in the name of his wife and other close relatives. Justice Vijender Jain, the former senior Judge in the Delhi High Court, who was recently appointed the CJ of Punjab and Haryana HC, is also in COJA’s line of fire.
By questioning the integrity of Justices Bhalla and Jain, Bhushan has thrown open the much larger question of judicial accountability. (See interview) “Leave aside taking any action against corrupt judges like Justice Jagdish Bhalla and Justice Vijender Jain, the CJI has been actually avoiding even properly investigating charges against them,” says Bhushan. According to documents produced by COJA on 21 July 2003, Renu Bhalla bought a 7,200 sq. metre plot near the Noida-Greater Noida expressway. On 28 March 2005, Uday Shankar, dsp, Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida’s official name) submitted a report to the area dm in which he states that the sellers of the plot belong to the “land mafia”. In an enquiry submitted to the dm on 26 June 2005, RK Singh, the area sdm, also described the sellers as belonging to the “land mafia”. According to the two reports, the plots constituted a portion of the gram samaj (joint village property) land, illegally grabbed by the “land mafia”. (All the documents relating to the transaction are in possession of Tehelka)
The SDM’s report says that at the time of the transaction, the plot was worth Rs 7.20 crore in the open market, whereas Renu Bhalla paid Rs 5 lakh for it. The two reports also state that the sellers of the plot have been charged in several criminal cases, and had sold plots to several influential people to curry favour with them. Renu Bhalla is the wife of Justice Jagdish Bhalla.
Bhushan has also drawn attention to the July 2005 draw of lots for allotment of plots in Sector 44 in Greater Noida. When the computerised draw threw up several influential names, a few people approached the Allahabad HC alleging foulplay. In October 2005, the HC decided that the case warranted a fresh draw of lots and ordered a cbi inquiry into the scam. Among those who had been allotted plots in the scrapped list were Aarohi Bhalla and Sheeba Sabharwal. Aarohi Bhalla, who is the son of Justice Bhalla, was allotted plot number f-52, while Sheeba Sabharwal, daughter-in-law of the CJI YK Sabharwal was allotted plot number f-78. In November 2005, the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad HC judgement, putting the cbi enquiry and the HC’s order to hold a fresh draw of lots on hold.
Admissible in court? Documents furnished by COJA against the justices
Members of COJA have offered to discuss the matter in person with the CJI but they say that they are still waiting to hear from him. Five months after their initial request, they sent another application to the CJI in November. This time they sought his permission to register an FIR against Justice Bhalla, claiming that their initial evidence was enough to register an offence against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“The CJI did not even call us to hear our point,” says Bhushan. “I don’t know why Justice Sabharwal is shielding Justice Bhalla!” Bhushan is equally critical of Justice Vijender Jain.
Justice Jain, who took oath as the new CJ of Punjab and Haryana HC in November, had to endure many delays before he could be appointed to the post. The CJI had to make three efforts to promote Justice Jain. A collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India first recommended Justice Jain’s name for the post in July. However, President APJ Abdul Kalam returned the file, causing a minor embarrassment to the CJI and the Union government. When the collegium reiterated its recommendation through the government in November, the President had to sign the file.
Third time lucky: Chief Justice Vijender Jain
When a collegium headed by the CJI recommended Justice Jain’s name, the President returned the file
Earlier in May, a proposal by the CJI to make Justice Jain CJ of the Maharsahtra HC was stonewalled by a judge in the three-member collegium who questioned Justice Jain’s integrity. The member on the panel cited a complaint made to former CJI RC Lahoti against Justice Jain in January 2005. The CJI revived the proposal a month later, but again a judge on the collegium opposed his appointment. Finally, a fortnight later, in July 2006, the CJI made his third attempt to promote Jain, this time to the Punjab and Haryana HC.
This time around, to address dissenting voices, the CJI also consulted other SC judges who happened to be former chief justices of the Delhi High Court. According to reliable sources, Justice Jain’s former seniors also questioned his integrity. However, on the basis of a majority, the proposal to promote him was forwarded to the Union government for the President’s assent.
A major hurdle in promoting Justice Jain continued on page 8 continued from page 6 was a complaint by one Subhash Agrawal who approached then CJI RC Lahoti in January 2005 with the complaint that Justice Jain had violated the code of conduct for judges. Agrawal claimed that Justice Jain gave a judgement in favour of someone with whom he had “family relations”. He produced a copy of the invitation card of the litigant’s granddaughter’s wedding, held in April 2001. According to the card, the venue of the wedding was the official residence of Justice Jain. (Tehelka has obtained a copy of the wedding card from the Central Information Commission). In November 2004, Justice Jain, hearing an appeal, decided a civil suit in favour of the person who had held his granddaughter’s wedding at his official residence.
When there was no response to his complaint in October 2005, Agrawal approached the SC to find out the status of his complaint under the rti Act. He was told that his complaint was in the relevant HC file. Not satisfied, Agrawal approached the Central Information Commission. On the commission’s insistence, the SC finally told Agrawal that his complaint had not actually been forwarded to the HC, as the SC has “no administrative jurisdiction” over high court judges. Therefore, the complaint was pending before the CJI, YK Sabharwal. The commission asked the CJI to act on the application. The CJI finally settled the complaint, saying he found no merit in it. When Agrawal asked for reasons behind the decision, he drew a blank.
It’s not just Bhushan who feels the need to bring about accountability and transparency in the judiciary. Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav says the issue will be discussed when the Judicial Accountability Bill is tabled in Parliament. “When the government tables the bill, all its aspects will be discussed,” Yadav told Tehelka.
CJI YK Sabharwal could not be reached for his comments. Despite conciliatory notes from him there are all indications that the clamour surrounding judicial misdemeanour and the demand for greater accountability will only increase in the days to come.
Dec 30 , 2006
• My lords, there’s a case against youFormer Union law ministers are spearheading a campaign against sitting judges they accuse of being corrupt. What is the higher judiciary doing to clear itself of these grave charges? Avinash Dutt reports
• Serious charges
• Dubious first
• ‘The Bill for Judicial Accountability is a sham’Former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan is angry at the state of the judiciary in India. He talks toAvinash Dutt
• Delhi HC dilutes the RTI ActThe rules framed by the court deter those who seek information about its workings, reports Avinash Dutt
• RTI TangleBy Avinash Dutt
‘Half Of The Last 16 Chief Justices Were Corrupt’
The decision to declare assets is a big victory. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan tells SHOMA CHAUDHURY what else is rotting in our judiciary
In public interest Prashant Bhushan has championed the fight for judicial accountability
Photo: SHAILENDRA PANDEY
It’s great judges have agreed to declare assets. But will it really help? Politicians do it too.
This decision is very welcome, even if it’s only happened under public pressure. It is proof of the power of public opinion. And even though declaring assets is a relatively minor aspect of judicial accountability, it will help. If a judge misdeclares his assets, there’s a chance someone might know he has particular properties he hasn’t declared, and may point it out. One could then examine if these can be explained within their legal income.
The debate around judicial accountability has got really hot. Are there watershed events that triggered this?
Not in my own perception, but I think for the public there were two watershed events – the Chief Justice Sabharwal case (where there was an allegation that Chief Justice YS Sabharwal’s orders to demolish commercial outlets in Delhi directly benefited his sons, who were partners with some mall developers) and the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam. Both these cases got wide media attention. A 2006 Transparency International report said the judiciary in India is the second most corrupt institution after the police.
You’ve been at the forefront of the judicial accountability campaign. Why?I have been witness to judicial corruption in the courts for a very long time. I know decisions are passed for extraneous considerations, but it’s difficult to get hard evidence of this. There have been highprofile impeachment attempts, for instance, on Justice Ramaswamy, Justice Punchi and Justice Anand. Yet, they all went on to become chief justices. In my view, out of the last 16 to 17 chief justices, half have been corrupt. I can’t prove this, though we had evidence against Punchi, Anand and Sabharwal on the basis of which we sought their impeachment.
What is the root cause of judicial corruption then, and what are your key demands?
Our key demand is an institutional mechanism for entertaining complaints and taking action against the judiciary. Nothing exists today. Everyone realises impeachment is impractical. To move an impeachment motion you need the signatures of 100 MPS, but you can’t get them because many MPs have pending individual or party cases in these judges’ courts. In the impeachment proceeding against Justice Bhalla, the BJP declined to sign because LK Advani had been acquitted by him in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Such political considerations prevail all the time. An in-house procedure was set up in 1999, post a chief justices’ conference in 1997, but that too is activated only selectively. For example, the complaint against Justice Bhalla was that he had purchased land worth Rs 4 crore at Rs 4 lakh — approximately — from land mafia in Noida. This was based on a report from the DM and SSP of Noida. This land mafia had several cases pending in courts subordinate to Justice Bhalla. Another complaint was that in the Reliance Power matter, though his son was the lawyer for Reliance Power, Justice Bhalla constituted a special bench while he was the presiding judge in Lucknow. He sat in the house of one the judges at 11pm at night to hear their case and pass an injunction in their favour. We asked Chief Justice Sabharwal to initiate proceedings against Bhalla, but he refused.
Similarly, Justice Vijender Jain decided the case of a person whose granddaughter had been married out of his own house. He was a close friend but he still heard and decided the case in this person’s favour. The point is, in these cases though very specific complaints were made to the then Chief Justice of India (CJI), he didn’t do anything to activate the in-house procedure. All these judges have gone on to become chief justices. Bhalla is still chief justice of Rajasthan; Virendra Jain became chief justice of Punjab and Haryana.
What’s the answer?The first problem is that there is no independent institution for entertaining complaints and taking action against judges. There has to be a National Judicial Complaints Commission — independent of the government and judiciary. It should have five members and an investigating machinery under them. The second problem lies in the Veeraswamy judgment, which ordered no criminal investigation can be done against a judge without prior written permission of the CJI. That’s what happened in Karnataka. There was a complaint against several judges visiting a motel and misbehaving with women. When the police officer came, the judges threatened him and said no FIR could be filed against them because they were judges. This happened in the Ghaziabad Provident Fund case as well. The investigation is stumped because the CJI hasn’t given permission. We have to get rid of this injunction.
The third problem is the Contempt of Court Act. Today, even if you expose a judge with evidence, you run the risk of contempt. Judges are even seeking to insulate themselves from the RTI. We have to get rid of the Contempt of Court Act – not the whole Act. Disobeying the orders of the court is civil contempt – that should remain. Interfering with the administration of justice is criminal contempt – that too should remain. What needs to be deleted is the clause about scandalising or lowering the dignity of the court, for which Arundhati Roy was sent to jail. Finally, there is the problem of appointments. Earlier, judicial appointments were made by the government, which was bad enough. Now, by a sleight of hand, the Supreme Court has taken the power of appointments to itself. Earlier there were political considerations; now there are nepotistic ones.
Again, what’s the answer to that?
We need an independent Judicial Appointments Commission, which is independent and works full time, and follows some systems and procedures. Eligibility lists should be prepared and comparative merits debated and evaluated. You can’t just pick judges arbitrarily, and let people know about it only after the deed is done.
There is still no independent body to process complaints and action against judges
What are the best practices and conventions elsewhere?
We should at least have Public Confirmation hearings like in the US. In the Senate Judicial Committee, you have hearings where any public citizen can give evidence about the background of a judge that has bearing on their appointment. This is being fiercely resisted here.
Do any counter arguments hold?
None that I can see. The judges say all this will compromise their independence. Unfortunately, they are equating the independence of the judiciary with independence from accountability. Independence of the judiciary was meant to be independence from the political establishment, not from all accountability.
Are there other ways in which judicial corruption manifests itself?There are so many. There is Justice Kapadia who decided on the Niyamgiri mining lease case in Orissa. He said Vedanta can’t be given the lease because it’s been blacklisted by the Norwegian government; but its subsidiary company Sterlite can get the lease because it is a publicly listed company. Justice Kapadia said it’s publicly listed because he had shares in it and yet he passed an order in favour of Sterlite! There is a law against judges hearing cases where there is a conflict of interest, but they just bypass it and you can’t complain because that would be contempt.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 35, Dated September 05, 2009
Burn After Reading
BRIJESH PANDEY and SANJAY DUBEY track the Supreme Court’s lack of urgency in investigating charges of judicial corruption
THE STORY OF A QUIET BURIAL?
Special CBI judge Rama Jain uncovers Rs 7 crore Provident Fund scam during vigilance inquiry
Accused Ashutosh Asthana revealed that he was paying off 36 judges including a sitting Supreme Court judge and 11 High Court judges
Supreme Court directs CBI to investigate, permits interrogation of all involved judges
Several status reports given by the CBI to the apex court
Reports kept secret. Action taken on basis of reports unknown
WHEN SPECIAL CBI judge Rama Jain received an anonymous letter in January 2008, telling her that the provident funds of Class 3 and Class 4 employees of the Ghaziabad court were being siphoned off, she had no idea that she had stumbled onto the biggest judicial scam in the history of independent India.
As she was the designated vigilance officer at the Ghaziabad court, she first conducted an inquiry on her own, which uncovered the involvement of at least three judges and the Central Nazir in the embezzlement of funds. She reported the matter to the Allahabad High Court, which, in turn, ordered a vigilance inquiry. Holding that the report, prima facie, had merit, the court directed her to file an FIR.
Central Nazir Ashutosh Asthana was arrested on the basis of the FIR on April 10, 2008. His interrogation revealed that Asthana was not a solo player. He claimed that he was first introduced to the scam by a district judge himself. What followed was so shocking that even the Ghaziabad police was on the backfoot. Asthana confessed that from the Rs 7 crore embezzled, he had given cash and gifts such as airconditioners, refrigerators, expensive clothes, jewellery and furniture to as many as 36 judges, including about 10 High Court judges and one Supreme Court judge. In a sworn statement before a magistrate, Asthana revealed that this fraud had run from 2001 to 2007 with the active connivance of district judges. Every month, Asthana even paid bribes to various judges, from Rs 25,000 to a whopping Rs 1.5 lakh.
When these excerpts from Asthana’s confession became public, the public image of the judiciary touched a new low. In perhaps the biggest moment of crisis for the Indian judiciary, Asthana, the main accused, has in turn named judges from the Ghaziabad District Court to the Allahabad High Court, right up to the Supreme Court. This was not all.
These revelations stunned the Ghaziabad police. Clearly out of their depth and (justifiably) wary of taking on the powerful judiciary, they requested the Ghaziabad court to hand over the probe to the CBI. In September 2008, the Supreme Court transferred the case to the CBI, but with a rider: Investigate, but give us a sealed report. The PF scam, as it had come to be known, gave the judiciary a wonderful opportunity to redeem itself in the eyes of the people but the case remained shrouded in secrecy. Cynics then said that the whole matter would be given a quiet burial. Eighteen months after the scam became public and four CBI status reports later, the cynics appear to have had the last laugh.
This delay and secrecy in such a highprofile scam raises various uncomfortable questions for the Indian Judiciary. Legal luminaries believe that this is symptomatic of a larger malaise which ails the judiciary. Says jurist Ram Jethmalani, “The reputation of a judge is more important than the actual fact of his honesty. In fact, if a judge has a bad reputation, even if it is undeserved, he should not be appointed because then nobody will have confidence in his judgements,” adding, “When the judiciary expedites cases concerning the executive branch or even most prominent cases, why is such urgency not displayed here, when the matter is extremely serious. Why this delay?”
For six years, funds worth Rs 7 crore were embezzled and judges were allegedly bribed
A VALID QUESTION. Asthana named 36 judges (a list of which is with TEHELKA). Other than the fact that a few have retired, virtually nothing is known about the fate of the judges of the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court judge. Whether or not the apex court is planning to initiate or has initiated, criminal charges against any of the judges — sitting or retired — are questions that only the Supreme Court can answer.
And the apex court should answer, argues former Union law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan. “I don’t appreciate this sealed-cover business except in very rare cases when making something public might be detrimental to the public interest — mainly if there is an army secret. Whether it is the judiciary or the executive, all officers are appointed on the behalf of the people. It is on the people’s behalf that the judiciary exercises its powers. How can you keep investigations in the PF scam secret? The people have every right to know what is going on.”
VN Khare, former Chief Justice of India, concurs. “These kind of things should not be allowed to linger. This shakes the confidence of the people in the judiciary. If there is an allegation or misconduct, it must be inquired into immediately and strict action should be taken against the erring judges. Why should the reputation of most judges suffer for no fault of theirs?”
When the judiciary expedites cases concerning the executive branch or even most prominent cases, why is such urgency not being displayed in this matter?
RAM JETHMALANI, Jurist
The biggest question which arises from this scam is the lack of will on the part of the judiciary to rein in errant judges. Let alone the judges named by Asthana, what about the fate of the three Ghaziabad District Judges named by vigilance officer of the district court Special CBI Judge Rama Jain herself? Legal luminaries say this hesitancy on the part of judges to act against fellow judges involved in wrongdoing clearly illustrates the prevailing mindset of the judiciary.
“I know of a retired Chief Justice of India who is one of the most honest judges I have ever seen. It’s difficult to imagine a more honest person. However, when a responsible minister made complaints to him against a corrupt High Court Judge, he did not grant permission for an investigation because he felt that as the head of the judicial family, it was his job to protect judges, be they corrupt or not,” says Shanti Bhushan. Ram Jethmalani chips in sarcastically, “This is the reason why judges call each other ‘brother judge.’”
IT IS not only cases like the PF scam which taints the image of the judiciary, but also the extreme reluctance on the part of the judiciary to be open and transparent. Reams and reams of paper have gone towards pious exhortations by the judiciary asking the government to refrain from corruption and work in an efficient manner. But sadly, no judge has held forth at length on the need for the judiciary to refrain from corruption. Even attempts to exercise the Right to Information with respect to the office of the CJI came a cropper as the CJI’s office was always declared out of bounds. It took a historic verdict by the Delhi High Court to declare that the office of the CJI was not immune from accountability and outside the purview of the RTI Act. Senior lawyers and retired chief justices feel that if the judiciary is not transparent or accountable, it only means that they are trying to hide something. Justice Khare feels, “Judges are more accountable than other persons because they hold a very high post. The very existence of the judiciary is based on the faith of the common man in it. If that faith is not there, how can the judiciary function?”
No judge holds forth at length on the need for the judiciary to refrain from corruption
What incenses them is the behaviour of the government with regard to the Judges’ Assets Declaration Bill which the government tried to introduce in 2009. The opposition erupted in protest and forced the government to defer the bill. Jethmalani terms the government’s approach to this bill as a “conspiracy of corruption”. “The government is scared to take on the judiciary. It’s clear that the executive wants to cosy up to the judiciary.” Agrees retired CJI V N Khare, “Why should there be any hesitancy to declare assets at all on the part of judiciary? The whole episode is beyond me.” In a recent development, the Supreme Court has reiterated before the Delhi High Court that the CJI’s office is outside the purview of the RTI Act.
Corruption charges are swept under the carpet by the judiciary. But this has given a shield of total immunity to the judges, who think they can get away with anything
SHANTI BHUSHAN, Former law minister
Another assault on the public image of the judiciary is the Dinakaran episode. Currently, judges are appointed to the Supreme Court by the Supreme Court Collegium, a group of judges chaired by the Chief Justice of India. When Chief Justice Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court was elevated to the Supreme Court, the state Bar and legal luminaries rose up in protest because the Collegium appeared to have dismissed, or, at least, not have considered the serious allegations of corruption against him. According to Senior Advocate Soli Sorabjee, “The Dinakaran episode shows that the Collegium is not working satisfactorily. You must have a national commission for judges which should be made up of judges, eminent jurists and senior government officials. This council should have the power to get independent information and evaluate it.” Shanti Bhushan feels that as judges are extremely busy with hearing cases, there should be a full-time commission whose sole function is to pick judges for the High Court and the Supreme Court and feels that the commission should also have its own bureau of investigation. They should not be dependent on either the local police, who might be afraid to investigate judges, or on an overburdened CBI.
But all this is very hard to achieve. Jurists feel that the judges of the higher courts have converted themselves into a union of sorts and are trying to protect each other. “Their approach is to sweep every allegation under the carpet. Don’t allow the public to know about it. Let the public believe that our judiciary is very honest. But this has been counterproductive. It has given a shield of total immunity to the judges and they think they can get away with anything. This has led to an increase in corruption in the judiciary,” states Shanti Bhushan. Time and again, opportunities have arisen for the judiciary to reinvent itself in a new avatar. And time after time, it has failed. Caesar’s wife, they say, should be above suspicion. Whatever the cost it might take to ensure it.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 41, Dated October 17, 2009
‘Half of last 16 chief justices have been corrupt’
Judicial corruption is a bull few in India are willing to attach their names to. There are whispers of this or that sitting judge making piles or cash; of sons, daughters and other near and dear ones acting as “brokers” for cases, deals, etc, but none of those allegations see the light of day.
Not because the media is a willing accomplice but because of the sword of “contempt of court” hanging over us.
For long, truth was not, repeat not, a defence in the case of contempt. Although that is now no longer the case, judicial corruption still isn’t headline news like corruption in other spheres of Indian life. The case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran is one of the rare exceptions and that too only in sections of the media.
In September 2009, the Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in an interview to Shoma Chaudhury of Tehelkamagazine, said “half of the last 16 chief justices were corrupt”. The comment invited the apex court’s contempt. Now, Bhushan’s father, the noted jurist Shanti Bhushan has joined issue.
In his application before the Supreme Court praying for his impleadment as respondent No.3 in the case of the Amicus Curiae vs Prashant Bhushan, Bhushan senior repeats his son’s charge that eight out of the last 16 CJs were corrupt, even going so far as to deliver the names of the corrupt in a sealed cover.
“In the applicant’s opinion, eight [of the last 16 chief justices] were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt.”
Below is the full text of Shanti Bhushan’s application, published in the public interest.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India &
His companion justices of the Supreme Court of India
The humble application of the Petitioners above named.
Most respectfully showeth:
1. That the applicant is filing the present application for his impleadment as Respondent No. 3 in the aforementioned contempt petition as the applicant is making a categorical statement in the present application that eight of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India were definitely corrupt and also providing the names of those eight definitely corrupt Chief Justices in a sealed cover as an annexure along with the present application.
2. The applicant is a practicing advocate who was enrolled on 8 July 1948. He has appeared in each and every High Court in the country. He is well acquainted with the manner in which the Indian judiciary has been functioning and how its character has been changing over the years.
3. That the applicant has been a part of the campaign for judicial accountability since its inception in the year 1990.
4. That there was a time when it was almost impossible even to think that a judge of a High court or the Supreme Court could be corrupt. Things have changed drastically during the last 2 or 3 decades during which corruption has been growing in the Indian judiciary. So much so that even a sitting Chief Justice of India had to openly admit that 20% of the judges could be corrupt. Very recently in March 2010 a sitting Chief Justice of a high court openly made a statement. The statement of the sitting chief justice was published by the Times of India in its issue of 6th march 2010 with the headlines, “In our judiciary, anybody can be bought, says Gujarat chief justice”. A copy of the news paper report is being annexed hereto as Annexure A.
5. That the applicant believes that the reported statement may not be correctly reflecting the perception of the Gujarat Chief Justice, since he should be knowing as the applicant does that there are and have always been plenty of totally honest judges, but they are also becoming the victim of this public perception since no institution of governance in the country is taking any effective steps about dealing with corruption in the judiciary.
6. That India became a republic in 1950, when the people became sovereign. They got the right to constitute their institutions, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, to serve them, who would be accountable to them.
7. That before 1950, corruption was almost non existent in the High Courts. The federal court had in 1949 got Justice Shiv Prasad Sinha removed from the Allahabad High Court, merely on the finding that he had passed 2 judicial orders on extra judicial considerations.
8. That it however appears that thereafter the judiciary has adopted the policy of sweeping all allegations of judicial corruption under the carpet in the belief that such allegations might tarnish the image of the judiciary. It does not realize that this policy has played a big role in increasing judicial corruption.
9. That the Constitution prescribed removal by impeachment as the only way of removing judges who commit misconduct since it was believed at the time of the framing of the Constitution that misconduct by judges of the higher judiciary would be very rare. However those expectations have been belied as is apparent from the surfacing of a series of judicial scandals in the recent past. The case of Justice V. Ramaswami and subsequent attempts to impeach other judges have shown that this is an impractical and difficult process to deal with corrupt judges. The practical effect of this has been to instill a feeling of impunity among judges who feel that they cannot be touched even if they misconduct.
10. That corruption by judges is a cognizable offence. The Code of Criminal Procedure requires that whenever an FIR is filed with respect to a cognizable offence, it is the statutory duty of the police to investigate the offence. The police has to collect evidence against the accused and charge-sheet him in a competent court. He would then be tried and punished by being sent to jail. The Supreme Court has however by violating this statutory provision in the CrPC given a direction in its Constitution bench judgement in theVeeraswamy case of 1991 that no FIR would be registered against any judge without the permission of the Chief Justice of India. In not a single case has any such permission ever been granted for the registration of an FIR against any judge after that judgement.
11. That the result of this direction has been that a total immunity has been given to corrupt judges against their prosecution. No wonder that judicial corruption has increased by leaps and bounds.
12. That an honest judiciary enjoying public confidence is an imperative for the functioning of a democracy, and it is the duty of every right thinking person to strive to achieve this end.
13. That unless the level of corruption in the judiciary is exposed and brought in the public domain, the institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate this evil.
14. That it is the common perception that whenever such efforts are made by anyone, the judiciary tries to target him by the use of the power of contempt. It is the reputation of the judge which is his shield against any malicious and false allegations against him. He doesn’t need the power of contempt to protect his reputation and credibility.
15. That the applicant strongly believes that a responsible citizen should be prepared to undergo any amount of suffering in the pursuit of the noble cause of fighting for a clean judiciary.
16. That there are two statements of Respondent no. 1 (Prashant Bhushan) published in Tehelka by Respondent no. 2 which are alleged to constitute contempt of court. In the 1st statement, Respondent no. 1 has expressed that in his view, out of the last 16 or 17 chief justices of India, half have been corrupt.
17. The applicant states that in his view too this statement is absolutely correct. At the time of the publication of this report in Tehelka, the last 16 Chief Justices of India were the following: 1. Justice Ranganath Mishra,
2. Justice K.N. Singh,
3. Justice M.H. Kania,
4. Justice L.M. Sharma,
5. Justice M.N. Venkatchalliah,
6. Justice A.M. Ahmadi,
7. Justice J.S. Verma,
8. Justice M.M. Punchhi,
9. Justice A.S. Anand,
10. Justice S.P. Bharucha,
11. Justice B.N. Kripal,
12. Justice G.B. Patnaik,
13. Justice Rajendra Babu,
14. Justice R. C. Lahoti,
15. Justice V.N. Khare,
16. Justice Y.K SabharwalOut of these, in the applicant’s opinion, eight were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt. The signed lists identifying these eight, six and two Chief Justices of India are being enclosed in a sealed cover which is being annexed here to as Annexure B.
18. That in fact two former chief justices of India had personally told the applicant while they were in office that their immediate predecessor and immediate successor were corrupt judges. The names of these four Chief Justices of India are included in the list of the 8 corrupt Chief Justices of India.
19. That since the applicant is publicly stating that out of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India, eight of them were definitely corrupt, the applicant also needs to be added as a respondent to this contempt petition so that he is also suitably punished for this contempt. The applicant would consider it a great honour to spend time in jail for making an effort to get for the people of India an honest and clean judiciary.
20. That the applicant also submits that since the questions arising in this case affects the judiciary as a whole, the petition needs to be decided by the entire court and not merely by three judges handpicked by a Chief Justice.
In view of the above, it is most respectfully prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to:
1. allow the present application and implead the Applicant as a contemnor in the aforementioned contempt petition as Respondent no. 3; and
2. pass any other or further order/s as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.
Photograph: courtesy Shailendra Pandey/ Tehelka
Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran
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