Public figures, through their pronouncements and suggestions, are supposed to make a difference to public life with an eye to reforming it. But unfortunately Justice Markandey Katju’s occasional revelations about alleged corruption, not so much in the judiciary as on the part of certain judges, seriously fail to meet the demands of this social injunction.
His first disclosure, relating to an unnamed judge of the Madras High Court, also had comments on leading political personalities, perhaps purporting to show there is a good deal of political interference in the judicial processes. However, there was in his version of things much that was unverifiable. Second, he brought allegations of inaction against a former chief justice of India (CJI), who denied that he was at all intimated about wrongdoing on the part of the supposedly corrupt judge. Now Justice Katju has charged a former Allahabad High Court judge, again unnamed, with corruption and complained of inaction against two former CJIs, one of whom he had named in the previous instance also.
What does all this resolve into? In the first place, this is acquiring the picture of ‘accusations and denials’, something that is eerily similar to what happens in the political domain. Second, some of the sentences in his blog are difficult to understand. In the case of the Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Katju has written that his reputation was very bad and “on that account” he was sent to the Allahabad High Court. The cause-effect relationship here is rather ambiguous. He has also written “most CJIs are reluctant to expose corruption in the judiciary …” This manner of casting aspersion on the office of the CJI serves no cause.
Corruption is different from cheating in the sense there is a method to it. If such a thing has penetrated the judiciary, as one CJI said on retirement in the 1990s, the higher echelons of the institution cannot be unaware of that today. It would be worthwhile to have a judicial commission come out with insights on what ails India’s judicial system at various levels, what the gaps between desire and fulfilment are, how to bring quick justice to the common man, etc. In other words, it can tell us how the judiciary can be a self-correcting institution. Pointing an accusing finger at individual judges cannot bring much succour, leave alone reforming the system, which is, after all, bigger than the individual.