Today every one is talking about judicial accountability i.e. how the whole system of judiciary is to be made accountable. A bill to amend the Judges Inquiry Act which will also provide for constitution of a National Judicial Council to inquire into complaints against the errant judges is under active consideration of the Government.
No doubt there is a need for more accountability of the judges, as serious doubts are being raised in minds of the general public about the integrity of the judges especially those in the higher judiciary. This has been enforced by the remark of a Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra who remarked: “The faith of the common man in the country is shaken to the core by such shocking and outrageous orders as the kind which have been passed by the single judge.” Writing the order, Justice Katju said: “'Something is rotten in the State of Denmark', said Shakespeare in Hamlet, and it can similarly be said something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court, as this case illustrates.”
The Bench said: “We are sorry to say but a lot of complaints are coming against certain judges of the Allahabad High Court relating to their integrity. Some judges have their kith and kin practising in the same court, and within a few years of starting practice, the sons or relations of the judge become multi-millionaires, have huge bank balances, luxurious cars, huge houses and are enjoying a luxurious life. This is a far cry from the days when the sons and other relatives of judges could derive no benefit from their relationship and had to struggle at the Bar like any other lawyer.”
Inquiry involving judges in the PF scam and Justice Dinakaran’s impeachment process are still going on. Though Advocate Prashant Bhusan is facing contempt in Supreme Court for his remark against some former Chief Justices of India , but he stands by his remark and is being supported by his father, Senior Advocate and former law minister Mr Shanti Bhusan. Voicing of allegations against some close relatives of the former Chief Justice of India Mr K G Balakrishnan have raised further doubts on the subject. These allegations have been supported by Justice Iyer.
These are only some of the instances and it has been termed as only tip of the iceberg. But in all this the common man’s interest is lost.The common man expectation is to have not only a free and fair judiciary but also that the justice should be delivered much speedily. Today more than three million cases are pending in High Courts and an astounding 26.3 million cases are pending in the subordinate courts. As regards Supreme Court, as on 31st December 2010, 54562 cases are pending out of which 35283 cases are pending for more than a year.
The above figures are rather mind blowing and the long delays in judicial delivery system is causing general public to loose faith in the system. Two recent instances bring to the fore the frustration of the general public. In one instance where a former officer of Research and Analysis (RAW) of Government of India created a ruckus in the Delhi High Court by baring herself in the courtroom. Though her act has been termed as a psychological one and she has been sent to hospital for treatment. But her plea was that she is totally frustrated because of the long delay in getting judgment. In another instance and a first of its kind incident, a litigant sent a cheque of Rs 20,000 to the Bombay High Court seeking a hearing of 60 minutes in return, prompting a division bench to ask his apology in writing. Anil Tilotekar, a resident of Pune, sent the cheque to the High Court Registry seeking to buy time. He even wrote a letter and sent e-mail to the court for an early hearing.
The fact of pendency coupled with the question mark on the integrity of the judges is a serious problem and may adversely affect the reputation of the last bastion of the Indian democracy- the other two namely the legislature and bureaucracy has already crumbled. The common man has still faith in the judiciary but if the problem is not addressed expeditiously I doubt whether it may lead to a anarchy.
The latest 2G Telecom scam is hot in the mind of the people. The licenses were granted to few favoured telecom operator flauting all rules and in a purely arbitrary and discriminatory manner. The figure quoted by CAG is astounding. But what is more disturbing is the fact that though the licenses were granted during the last UPA government and the fact of arbitrariness and favouratism was written and known to everyone including our esteemed PM but the same gentleman was again made the telecom Minister ignoring all the allegations.
It was only when the Supreme Court stepped in that the Government rose from its slumber and took some steps which was too late. The Government is still continuing with the present CVC despite him being charge-sheeted. What is more painful is the fact that the government tried to defend all these acts till it reached such a stage that any corrective step appears to be a whitewash. Why can’t Government take a proactive step? The common man had high expectation from the current PM and that the reason they voted him for the second term but UPA –II has miserably failed on all the fronts especially on the subject of corruption. The agony of the common man because of the spiraling prices need no mention here.
We fail to explain to people the whole process of judicial system right from the appointment of judges, to disposal of cases, as they are covered under a veil. We don’t know how the judges are appointed. There is no fixed yardstick on which the appointment is being made especially to the higher judiciary. Merit in many cases, is not the sole criteria and there is total lack of transparency. This is more appalling when senior most Chief Justice of a High Court was not elevated to the Supreme Court when other junior to him got elevated. Similarly the appointments to High Court are being done in a most non-transparent way. But once a judge is appointed removing him from the office becomes extremely difficult, rather impossible. No judge of a High Court/Supreme Court has ever been impeached.
Same is the case of the disposal of the cases. The ordinary litigant doesn’t know how the cases are being listed and disposed off. There have been instances when earlier cases are pending and new cases have been disposed off. People ask how the case involving two brothers of one of the largest industrial houses got listed and disposed off in Supreme Court when other cases of not so powerful people are still pending. And that too, the particular case was heard on a day to day basis.
The interpretation of the institution of judiciary has undergone a drastic change over the years. Today there is a necessity to have a judiciary which is sensitive to right to life of the poor, the socially and economically deprived and the underprivileged and protect the same and when this happens the institution can be said to be democratic. Today a perception is creeping in the minds of the general public that the higher judiciary is made for rich and the mighty. The issue needs to be addressed and corrected so as to ensure and protect the highest standards of the judiciary as enshrined in the constitution and that too in a very transparent way.