Judicial Nepotism: Behind the Government’s concern

The Union Law Ministry seems to have suddenly woken up to the danger posed by Judicial nepotism to judicial integrity. Its letter to the Bar Council of India – as reported by the NDTV -renews the debate on the issue. The BCI, which has disciplinary control over advocates, introduced Rule 6 with the hope that the Judges themselves would decline to be appointed in those courts where their relatives practised. The BCI knew that it would be difficult to ask advocates who have established good practice in a court to shift to another court just because their relatives had been appointed Judges there. That was why the BCI was reluctant to enforce the rule.
It can be argued – as sections of the Bar and the Bench have done – that the rule cannot be invoked against advocates as long as they do not argue cases before the Judges who are related to them. But the BCI favours a liberal interpretation of the rule in the face of allegations in the Bar that some Judges favour each other indirectly by obliging each other’s advocate-kin. What is shocking is the sheer number of Judges and advocates who are their relatives working in the same courts, across the country. On July 28, 2003, the BCI forwarded to the Union Law Ministry a list of 131 Judges (out of a total 499) in 21 High Courts and 180 advocates with their names and nature of relationships. It appears there has been no substantial progress since then in judicial clean-up.

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