“There is something rotten in the Allahabad High Court.” These words uttered by a Supreme Court bench on Friday are an unprecedented and stinging indictment of India’s largest high court and expose one of the country’s worst kept secrets — corruption in the judiciary.
What was once a whisper in judicial corridors is now public. “There are some ‘incorrigible’ judges in the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench included) who pass orders on ‘extraneous considerations’,” the apex court said.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, said Shakespeare in Hamlet, and it can similarly be said something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court,” the SC said, asking high court chief justice FI Rebello to take strong steps to stem the rot.
Referring to the problem of ‘uncle judges’, it said: “Some judges have their kith and kin practising in the same court. And within a few years of starting practice, these sons and relations of judges become multi-millionaires with huge bank balances, luxurious cars, huge houses and luxurious lives.”
This observation was made by a bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra on a judgment passed by a single judge of the high court that has been challenged in Supreme Court. It relates to the allotment of a piece of land in Bahraich town of Uttar Pradesh on lease to a circus company to hold shows during a local fair.
Even at face value, the judgment is questionable as Bahraich, barely 80 km north of Lucknow, falls in the jurisdiction of the Lucknow bench and not the Allahabad bench. Yet, the judge who passed the order is from the Allahabad bench and did so despite the Lucknow bench having already dismissed the petition twice in May 2010.
“These orders were clearly passed on extraneous considerations," Supreme Court bench observed.
“We are sorry to say but a lot of complaints are coming against certain judges of the Allahabad High Court relating to their integrity,” it added.
“The Allahabad High Court really needs some cleaning (both Allahabad and Lucknow Benches) and we request the honourable chief justice of the high court to do the needful, even if he has to take some strong measures, including transfer of the incorrigibles,” it said.
High court judges passing questionable orders have serious implications because many of them go on to become Supreme Court judges.
However, the Supreme Court clarified that not lawyers practising in the high court are bad.
“We do not mean to say all lawyers who have close relations as judges of the high court are misusing that relationship. Some are scrupulously taking care that no one should lift a finger on this account.
“However, others are shamelessly taking advantage of this relationship.”