Corruption Galore in Judiciary

The news about the corrupt activities and misconduct of Justice Soumitra may not shock the conscience of many in the judiciary but it has certainly further eroded the confidence and respect of the general public towards this great institution. The constitution makers had never thought that the future judicial officers and Hon’ble judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court would be as insensitive and unscrupulous to be found indulging in corruption and other misconducts. A few years ago four Hon’ble judges of Karnataka High Court were reported to be found in a sex scandal. When it was published in prestigious newspapers, that High Court started contempt proceedings against the editors and correspondents of those newspapers. It was an outrageous act on the part of Karnataka High Court to say the least. The best course for the High Court would have been to conduct thorough investigation into the matter to come clean or initiated the impeachment proceedings against the tainted judges. The newspaper editors would have also rendered yeoman’s service to the society if they had allowed the contempt proceedings against them to go on so as to take such an important matter to its logical conclusion. But nothing of the sort was done; the High Court dropped the contempt proceedings on its own.

Similarly; when a scandal of this nature was exposed involving a judge of the Delhi High Court, the people reacted strongly. The media must be appreciated for not bowing down to the empty threats of the contempt proceedings. The judge had still left some sense of shame in him and he resigned before the matter would have blown further, although nobody could buy the reasons which he gave for resigning. He is now facing criminal charges in the session’s court. It may not be out of place that spineless office-bearers the bar association of the High Court showed their allegiance to the judge by expressing their solidarity. They appeared to be quite oblivious of the fact; it amounted to sending wrong signals in the society.

The Provident Fund scandal has raged controversy and fireball even in the Supreme Court of India. Many High Court judges, sitting and retired both and even a Supreme Court, are allegedly involved in the PF scandal of nearly Rs.24 crore from the treasury of Ghaziabad. Now in Soumitra Sen’s case the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has recommended for his removal from service. Prior to his appointment as the High Court he was a practicing advocate in Calcutta. He was appointed as the receiver in 1993 in a law suit between Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India over supply of fire bricks and in the way he had allegedly appropriated Rs 32 lakh. He chose to retain the money even after being elevated to the High Court in 2003 and parted with it only after the High Court ordered him in April 2006 to pay it back.

If the impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen are initiated it will be the second case in the annals of India after the constitution came into existence. The first case was that of Justice V. Ramaswami, when he was a judge of the Supreme Court of India and it was initiated for misconduct in furniture purchases when he was the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. However, the only judge who was removed from the office in the independent India was justice Shiva Prasad of Allahabad High Court by then Governor General C. Rajagopalachari on April 22, 1949 accepting a report of the Federal Court. In fact, the objective behind providing the constitutional immunity to the judges was that they should be totally free from any pulls or pressures in dispensation of justice. The constitution makers had the bitter experience of feudalism and administrative atrocities. That was the reason that they ensured immunity to Hon’ble judges by providing the very archaic and almost impossible method of impeachment. With the passage of the time, however, everything has changed. Judges do not come from the ether world; they come from the same society which is menacingly advancing towards unspeakable corruption.

The law is said to be the vehicle for achieving the goal of the wishes and aspiration of the people. If the law cannot address to the problems in right earnest, it must be drastically changed to take care of the arising needs and difficulties. J.Veeraswami’s case that was decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India was simply the interpretation of the constitution. But now the time has come that the Judges Inquiry Act should be thoroughly changed and overhauled so as bring the tainted judges to book to secure their easy removal. However, if they are allowed to live in the invulnerable and impregnable world of their own, then incalculable damage would be done to the judiciary in particular and the society in general.

People still have tremendous faith in judiciary and this can be kept intact rather enhanced when the judiciary remains free from corruption. Judges will have to set the example by leading it from the front but if they shamelessly continue to remain with their posts like leeches under cover of constitutional immunity, then nobody knows how much damage they will do. We cannot expect of the Bar Associations of today to take any lead because its leaders are themselves not above-board.