The Bar Council of India can now go ahead with its controversial nationwide "confidential survey" among lawyers on judicial corruption, appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts and certain other issues confronting the judiciary.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan refused to entertain a petition seeking to restrain the BCI from conducting the survey. Petitioner advocate VB Joshi had also sought initiation of contempt proceedings against S Gopakumaran Nair, the then BCI Chairman, on the ground that conducting a survey about corruption in judiciary amounted to contempt of court.
However, the court rejected the petition saying: "That is a general questionnaire and Nair is no longer the BCI chairman."
The BCI is conducting the first ever survey among lawyers on what ails the Indian judiciary and the state of the legal profession. It would also include the issue of nepotism in judiciary or what in bar parlance has come to be known as the concept of “uncle judges".
The BCI has already sent an elaborate questionnaire to the Chairmen of all state bar councils (SBCs) and presidents of high court bar associations (HCBAs) asking them to circulate it among their members for responses.
In a letter dated February 22, 2008 Nair said that the exercise was aimed at collecting relevant data on a national basis for making an authoritative and scientific "empirical study" on the present status of the Indian legal profession. Assuring confidentiality to the participating advocates, the letter said: "This is a very responsible job and part of your duty to assist the apex body to make a realistic study and arrive at right conclusions."
After the matter went to the Supreme Court, Nair successor SNP Sinha had asserted that the BCI will go ahead with the survey. "The entire nation…each and every citizen wants to know whether there is corruption in judiciary or not," he had said.
The two-part nine-page questionnaire contains 36 questions. While the first part mostly deals with the state of the legal profession and advocates and aims to ascertain the strength and weaknesses of the legal profession, the second part has some very controversial questions on the judiciary.
The CBI has asked lawyers to articulate their view on the quality and performance of judiciary in their state, particularly, the high court. It also sought to know if there was rampant corruption in judiciary and the possible solutions for that.