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Judiciary opaque, courts trouble

No sitting High Court or Supreme Court judge has been sacked so far in the 60 years since Independence, and not for the lack of errant judges. Some blame the lengthy process for it, others say there is no will, reports Nagendar Sharma.

delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2009 02:15 IST
Nagendar Sharma

No sitting High Court or Supreme Court judge has been sacked so far in the 60 years since Independence, and not for the lack of errant judges. Some blame the lengthy process for it, others say there is no will.

The Punjab vigilance department gave the high court of the state a damning report about some judicial malpractices and referred to some judges without linking the two. But no action has been taken a year since.

Hindustan Times reported that two high court judges were mentioned in conversations between two private persons about judicial malpractices like case list fixing and organising favourable hearings.

Despite a clear recommendation from the chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court to transfer Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, one of the two judges mentioned, nothing happened.

Allegations of corruption and misconduct against judges of the higher judiciary can only be investigated on directions of the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The Vigilance department is waiting for the go ahead. This is the latest in the series of controversies to have hit the judiciary in recent years, but still a strong action is awaited.

One of the best known names in the our judicial history, the 94 year-old Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer said he could not recollect a situation worse than this.

“Today the judges want to sit in ivory towers to be above any kind of scrutiny. Intolerance is at its peak and the deteriorating standards have led to deep-rooted corruption,” the former Supreme Court judge said.

In February last year, 36 judges – including a sitting Supreme Court judge, 11 high court judges from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 24 district level judges in U.P., were named by an accused in the multi-crore Ghaziabad provident fund scam.

“The withdrawals between 2001 and 2007 were made with the full knowledge of judges who benefited financially from my deeds,” Ashutosh Asthana, the chief administrative officer of Ghaziabad treasury and the prime accused in the case had confessed before a magistrate.

The CBI was directed by the CJI to send a questionnaire to him meant for the judges, allegedly named in the scam. More than a year has passed, but the outcome of the probe is uncertain. The indications are that the investigating agency has failed to find anything against the judges.

On August 13 last year, Justice Nirmaljit Kaur of the Punjab and Haryana high court informed the police that Rs 15 lakh cash had been delivered at her residence.

Police investigation revealed that the money sent by an additional advocate general of Haryana was wrongly delivered at Justice Kaur’s residence, and was meant for another lady judge, Justice Nirmal Yadav.

Five persons, including then additional advocate general of Haryana were arrested. The Chandigarh police handed over the case to the CBI 10 days later, and on the same day, the CJI formed a three-judge committee to probe the allegations.

The judges committee gave its report three months later, indicting Justice Yadav for “not keeping the aloofness expected of a judge”.

Justice Yadav hit back and charged the committee with being unfair to her. She named at least two high court judges, who, she alleged, were indulging in corrupt practices and were behind the conspiracy to malign her.

The heated exchange between Justice Yadav and the CJI continued for days. The fate of the CBI probe is unknown.

Former CJI Y. K. Sabharwal faced serious allegations of corruption. He was accused of furthering the business interests of his sons while passing orders on the sealing of commercial establishments in residential areas in the capital in 2006. Documentary evidence was provided to show that his sons, in partnership with influential mall developers were the reason behind his unrelenting pressure on sealing.

On a complaint filed by a group of lawyers, the Central Vigilance Commission had forwarded it to the law Ministry, which, for the reasons best known to it decided not be proceed against the retired CJI. This happened despite the fact that a retired CJI is an ordinary citizen and does not enjoy any immunity under the law.