Virtually admitting there was corruption in the judiciary, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it couldn’t issue a certificate that all judges were honest.
“Black sheep are everywhere. It’s only a question of degree,” a three-judge Bench headed by Justice B.N. Agrawal said, during the hearing of petitions seeking “impartial and unfettered” probe into the multi-crore Ghaziabad provident fund scam.
Thirty-six 36 retired and sitting judges, including those of higher judiciary, are allegedly involved in the scam.
The observations came after senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, representing Transparency International (India), submitted a former Chief Justice of India had once said 20 per cent of judges were corrupt.
The court is hearing two separate petitions filed by the Ghaziabad Bar Association and Transparency International (India) seeking a CBI probe.
Bhushan argued the procedure under the Criminal Procedure Code must be followed and judges should be examined as witnesses first without any interference by the CJI.
He said the 1991 Veeraswami case judgment did not accord protection to sitting judges from prosecution, as the case related to a retired judge. The Bench, however, asked if a reversal of the Veeraswami judgment would adversely affect the independence of the judiciary.
The Bench expressed apprehension that honest judges would be the first to face false criminal cases if the protection accorded by the ruling is removed.
“Judicial independence means judges should have the independence to pass ruling without getting influenced from the state and not the independence to indulge in corruption,” said Bhushan.
Earlier, senior counsel Anil Divan said even if it is accepted that the CBI is not above suspicion, “let’s prefer the lesser evil (CBI) to the greater (Uttar Pradesh Police)."