Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that corruption in government and judiciary was as big a challenge as the huge backlog of pending cases.
Inaugurating a joint conference of chief ministers and chief justices in New Delhi, the prime minister underscored the “urgent need” to “create special courts to deal with corruption cases.” He agreed with Chief Justice of India (CJI) KG Balakrishnan’s suggestion in this regard. “This will instill greater confidence in our justice delivery system at home and abroad,” Singh told the conference, an annual exercise aimed at achieving better administration of justice.
But the CJI tried to avoid reporters’ questions regarding the PM’s comment on corruption in “government and judiciary”. “The prime minister has not said anything about corruption in judiciary….He has talked about corruption cases investigated by the CBI….CBI cases are not against the judiciary,” he told reporters when repeatedly asked to react to Singh’s comment.
Law Minister HR Bhardwaj too tried to downplay the PM’s remarks saying, “Judiciary is the only institution in India which people think is corruption-free.”
The CJI parried questions regarding declaration of assets by judges and judges' accountability. The only thing he said on this issue was that the Supreme Court judges submit in a sealed cover, details of their assets at the time of their elevation and also inform him about purchase of property thereafter.
The CJI's statement, however, runs contrary to the 10-year-old resolution adopted by Supreme Court Judges, making it mandatory for all the judges of higher judiciary to regularly declare their assets along with those of their family members.
To a question if the CJI's office came within the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI), Justice Balakrishnan said it was a constitutional post and not a government office.
The judiciary has been under fire for its reluctance to provide information sought under RTI on judges' appointments, declaration of assets and disciplinary action on allegations of corruption and misconduct against judges.
Earlier, in his address, the Prime Minister said the Centre might step in to establish family courts in the country as many states had failed to discharge their legal obligation in this regard.
Bhardwaj voiced concern over delays in disposal of cases, saying mounting arrears in courts raised a "serious question mark" on the efficiency of the justice delivery system. "The issue of huge backlog and pendency of cases has been a matter of concern for quite some time and still remains the most important challenge before us that needs to be solved at the earliest," he said.