Call a spade a spade
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Call a spade a spade

Why is the CPI(M) so afraid to call for the cleaning up of India’s judiciary? Sankar Ray writes.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2012 21:32 IST
Sankar Ray
Sankar Ray

The Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia, who retires on September 29, avoids social interaction outside juridical bounds and even refuses to be interviewed by the media. Referring to his humble beginnings (he started his career as a Class IV employee), Justice Kapadia often says that his only asset is his integrity.

His statement lends relevance to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent statement — “What I see is that many verdicts are being delivered in exchange for money today. Why? The judiciary’s job is to give justice. Corruption has become the main pillar now.... This is our misfortune.” Understandably, Banerjee’s statements fuelled angry reactions and ex-Solicitor General of India Soli Sorabjee reacted sharply: “You can’t make such baseless, scandalous allegations.

Nonetheless, the CM’s statement wasn’t astonishing. Many influential lawyers — especially those who practise company law and criminal cases — have close relationships with judges. This was unthinkable in the 1960s. Kapadia is an exception.

Our judiciary isn’t the only one that has been accused of corrupt practices. In the US, judge Thomas J Maloney, along with some lawyers, had been caught red-handed taking bribes via the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Operation Greylord in the late-1970s. Maloney remains one of the worst judges in history but the malady is systemic.

In an article in Saptaha, a Bengali weekly, Parthasarathi Sengupta, a distinguished industrial lawyer of the Calcutta High Court, recollected former CJI ES Venkatramaiah’s acidic words in an interview to a well-known columnist. “The judiciary in India has deteriorated in its standards because such judges are appointed as are willing to be ‘influenced by lavish parties and whisky bottles’.” He reminded the sitting judges of former Union minister of law and justice Sib Shankar’s pungent statement: “Anti-social elements ie, FERA violators, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries found their haven in the Supreme Court.” If my memory doesn’t betray me, the minister wasn’t rebuked by any court for defaming the judiciary.

But Sengupta’s assertion that our juridical system isn’t on “a very weak foundation” reflects a kind of complacency that is not desirable. It is through self-criticism that the Indian judiciary can insulate itself from an all-pervading corruption and immorality, which has made our democratic polity quasi-malignant.

Strangely enough, the mandarins of the CPI(M) attacked Banerjee for her comments. Former mayor of Kolkata and ex-Advocate General of Tripura Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, a close confidante of former West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, moved the high court seeking suo motu action against the CM for her “derogatory” remarks. They conveniently forgot Marx’s caution against illusion about justice that has a class imperative: “Right, law, etc., are merely the symptoms of other relations upon which State power rests”.

Sankar Ray is Kolkata-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Sep 19, 2012 21:29 IST