IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 19th Oct 2020
You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.– Richard Branson
EDITORIAL HUNT #196 :“Judicial Impropriety and Corruption | UPSC”
Judicial Impropriety and Corruption | UPSC
Prashant Bhushan is a public interest advocate practising at the Supreme Court
Probing judicial impropriety and corruption
Only retired judges of high credibility would be able to conduct a robust inquiry into Jagan Reddy’s complaint
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Judiciary
Charges of corruption can also be a ground for initiating impeachment. Such charges therefore cannot remain secret. But they surely dent the image of Judiciary if proven right . Comment -(GS 2)
- CM Letter to CJI
- CJI Options
- Way Forward
CONTENTS OF THE LETTER
- THE LETTER : It refers to the purchase of agricultural land, in the area to be declared as the capital city of Andhra Pradesh.
- THE CHARGES : The land was purchased by persons, including the Supreme Court judge’s daughters and in-laws , after declaration of the capital area limits, at the same low price for the lands which existed before the demarcation.
- INQUIRY AND INVESTIGATION : In March, the Principal Secretary (Home), Andhra Pradesh Government, wrote to the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Public Grievances and Pensions seeking a CBI inquiry into the findings of a Cabinet sub-committee.
- SCRUTINY : They set up to investigate charges of corrupt dealings in land purchases.
- SUB-COMMITTE REMARKS : It opined that public servants at the helm of affairs in the erstwhile government misused and abused their official position to pre-determine the location of the new capital .
- BENEFICIARIES : Subsequently purchased lands was unjustly and illegally benefiting their associates and their companies and businesses, family members and political party members.
- REGULATING THE BENCHES : Mr. Reddy accused the Supreme Court judge of influencing the allocation of benches at the State High Court to hear politically sensitive cases.
- HALTING INVESTIGATIONS : Staying all investigations into the FIR involving this land scam, which mentions the relatives of the Supreme Court judge as well as a former Advocate General as beneficiaries.
- GAGGED MEDIA : The Chief Justice also issued an unprecedented gag order on the media from reporting the contents of the FIR.
- EVIDENCES : In the conversation, the retired judge is heard mentioning his knowledge about the corruption of this Supreme Court judge and asking the district judge if he has more information in this regard.
Two, what the CJI’s response should be .
- In 1997, judges adopted an in-house procedure for inquiring into such charges.
- In case of a complaint against a Supreme Court judge, the CJI is expected to order an inquiry by three sitting judges of the Supreme Court.
C. RAVICHANDRAN IYER V. JUSTICE A.M. BHATTACHARJEE (1995)
- CLASSIFIED INFORMATION : The court held that such complaints should be kept confidential, the unfortunate reality is that the judiciary tends to try and brush complaints of corruption against judges under the carpet.
- ATTEMPT TO INQUIRY : Sometimes, if the public becomes aware of such complaints, the CJI is compelled to order an inquiry.
WHY IMPEACHMENT IS DIFFICULT ?
- SHUT DOWNING EYES : We have often seen that even credible complaints against judges, made confidentially to the CJI, are ignored.
- APPROVAL OF MOTION : At least two conditions must be satisfied before a sufficient number of MPs are willing to sign an impeachment motion against a judge:
- SOLID DOCUMENTED EVIDENCES : There should be solid documentary evidence of corruption and it should have become a public scandal.
- SCANDALISING THE COURT : The view that this would scandalise the court is archaic and has been discarded in most progressive democracies.
- COUNTER ACTIONS : Contempt proceedings against him would be counterproductive, since he is unlikely to be cowed down.
WHAT SHOULD THE CJI DO?
- IN HOUSE PROCEDURE : The purpose of the in-house procedure is that all credible complaints of misconduct against judges of the High Court and Supreme Court should be looked into by a committee of judges.
- CODE OF CONDUCT : The complaint requires an inquiry by three sitting judges of the Supreme Court.
- ROBUST INQUIRY : In a complaint involving the senior-most puisne judge, it is unlikely that junior judges will conduct a robust and credible inquiry.
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINT : In the case of the sexual harassment complaint against the previous CJI, the in-house committee did not allow the complainant to be accompanied by her lawyer, nor did it allow recording of the proceedings.
- MISSING REPORT : The final report, which purportedly exonerated Mr. Gogoi, has not yet seen the light of day.
- RECONDITIONING : Strangely, the woman whose allegations were found to be unsubstantiated by this committee was later reinstated by the Court.
- CREDIBILITY : This casts serious doubts on the credibility of the report.Only retired judges of high credibility will be able to conduct a robust inquiry into Mr. Reddy’s complaint.
- COMMITTEE : The Chief Justice should set up a credible inquiry committee.
- REPUTATION AND MISTRUTHS : This will enhance the reputation of the judiciary, dispel mistruths, and redeem the image of the judge concerned.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Judicial Impropriety and Corruption | UPSC