In Justice Sabharwal’s interview in The Hindu that Arun has referred to, the new CJIS’s views on corruption in the judiciary makes for interesting reading. He says:
“Wherever little corruption is there, as far as the subordinate judiciary is concerned, we see every day the compulsory retirement of judicial officers. As far as the higher judiciary is concerned, it is very, very minimal.”
Contrast this with the statement of another Chief Justice of India, S.P. Bharucha,J. He candidly admitted that “up to 20 percent of the judges in India are corrupt” The Centre for Media Studies has published its findings on corruption in the judiciary which again is indicative that the public perception of the judiciary is that it quite a corrupt institution.
In spite of this lament, Prashanth Bhushan testifies that there has not been a single official investigation against a judge in the last 15 years. Justice Bharucha also pointed out that with respect to the higher judiciary, the only remedy is impeachment which experience has proved to be fairly impracticable and flawed. There does exist an alternate, in-house mechanism evolved after the decision in C. Ravichandran vs. Justice A. M. Bhattacharjee (1995), but this too does not inspire much confidence. This view has been endorsed by others- from the Bar, the Bench and the press.
What has changed in the couple of years that separates the tenures of Justice Bharucha and Justice Sabharwal for judicial corruption to become “very, very minimal”?
Justice Sabharwal also adopts the high moral ground when he challenges: “Tell me, is there any other organisation where, on account of peer pressure, a High Court judge resigns? It is only happening in the judiciary.”
I cannot recollect any instance when a judge has resigned on account of peer pressure. On the other hand, the experience has been to the contrary. Arun, is a previous post has already referred to the instance where 2 High Court judges in Punjab obtained membership in an elite club in a dubious manner. Chief Justice Roy was shunted out after his attempt in seeking an explanation from these judges triggered a wonderful act of camaraderie wherein almost all judges of that Court went on leave en masse in an expression of solidarity with these 2 judges. Certain judges of the very same High Court were also said to be involved in the notorious UPSC jobs-for-cash scandal, but nothing much came out of an enquiry commissioned under the in-house procedure.
I do hope that Justice Sabharwal does not gloss over the reality of judicial corruption, and tries to tackle this problem head- on.