Corruption in our society is like cancer, which if not detected soon within the
time it will surely spread its magnificence among the polity of democracy. To
detect corruption has always been a big problem. A non- corrupt judiciary is a
fundamental condition for the approval of rule of law and the ability to
guarantee basic human rights in society.
The judiciary must therefore be an
independent and fair body that fights corruption, not the other way around. Now
the question is, are some of the judges bowed to misuse the powers given to them
in the temple of justice? Are they under the influence of political leaders and
bureaucrats, etc through illegal means because of which the judicial system has
Corruption in the Indian Judiciary
Our Judicial system has been the nation’s moral conscience, speaking truth to
political power, upholding the rights of citizens, mediating Centre-state
conflicts, providing justice to the rich and poor alike, and on several
momentous occasions, saving democracy itself. Despite its achievements, a gap
between the ideal and reality has been becoming clear over the years.
justice delivery is slow, the appointment of judges is mired in controversy,
disciplinary mechanisms scarcely work, hierarchy rather than merit is preferred,
women are severely under-represented, and constitutional matters often languish
in the Supreme Court for years. As Justice Chelameswar said in his dissent in
the NJAC judgment, the courts must reform, so that they can preserve.
If Indian Judiciary leaves corruption, India might have become a heaven. The
Indian cinema has shown us numerous adaptation of rigged judicial verdicts,
these depictions don’t come merely from an imaginative mind, but clearly shows
us how things work under wraps.
Our media’s keeps close watch on the political
participants but they never point out the corruption in Judiciary or disclose
the names of the corrupted judges so the judiciary escapes the purview of the
media. Many channels are airing substandard crime investigation programme in
order to have cheap media popularity. This will affect the administration of
A judge is supposed to deliver a judgement on the facts as presented
before him, but nowadays most of the judges are getting influenced by the
debates conducted by medias on crime investigation. It is seen that 70 percent
of the judges are media-phobiac and going along with the media fearing public
criticism. This is the greatest danger of media trial. The judiciary is not held
publically accountable for major verdicts or prolonged court proceedings.
For the first time in India, a sitting High Court judge Honourable Justice C S
Karnan was sentenced to six months in prison for making allegations of
corruption against Supreme Court judges, in May 2017, after an SC panel held him
guilty of contempt of the court. In a more recent instance, the Central Bureau
of Investigations (CBI) made direct allegations of corruption against a sitting
judge of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court when it booked Honourable
Justice Narain Shukla for receiving illegal gratification for allegedly
favouring a medical college in a case. The CBI also named IM Quddusi, a retired
judge of the Chhattisgarh High Court, and others in the case.
No one can question the court. There is no provision in the constitution to
register a case against a judge who has taken bribe since it is not feasible for
a poor man to go and visit the Chief justice of India and then register the
FIR. The judges are hardly questioned about nature of justice as he or she does
what they deem fit as per their legal knowledge. If an ordinary man questions
the court, suddenly a contempt of court will be issued against him while when
three judges of the Supreme Court questioned the Chief Justice why wasn’t the
contempt of court issued against them?
Recently there was a serious allegation of sexual harassment against the former
Chief Justice of India, Shri. Ranjan Gogoi, by a staff of the Supreme Court. The
Supreme Court had taken a suo moto cognisance back and then and a three bench
judges which include the same accused Judge Ranjan Gogoi himself conducted a
judicial enquiry and closed the enquiry with the report that he is innocent. By
this kind of autocracy what kind of message these judges can give to the
Instances of corruption and bribery in the lower rungs of judiciary keep getting
reported regularly from across the country that only add to an overall negative
narrative against the judiciary. For example, in April 2018, three judges of
lower courts in Telangana were arrested for possessing assets disproportionate
to their known sources of income. Similarly, in Gujarat, two judges of the lower
judiciary were arrested for allegedly taking money to settle cases during their
posting at Vapi court in 2014. In January 2018, four sitting Supreme Court
judges held a news conference to highlight alleged rot that they claimed had set
in the judiciary.
Accountability is a position where the person takes responsibility for its
actions and performances by either giving reasons for its actions or for
avoiding punishment. Accountability only arises when you have a certain
responsibility towards someone. A clear example of the judiciary being
unaccountable is itself being exempted from the Right to Information Act, 2002
and fog away transparency. This Act was a main legislative change to bring in
more transparency and accountability to which the higher judiciary did not
The Supreme Court in Manohar S/o Manikrao Anchule vs State of
Maharashtra & Anr
stated that it is undoubted that transparency is important on
rather say sine qua non to democracy, and if an authority is made accountable,
probability of errors become less.
The protection of Rule of Law in the country
has also been assigned to the bold and independent judiciary, for which the
judiciary needs to be transparent and constitutionally sound. The judiciary when
setting down standards of morality and behaviour for others should also make
sure that they follow it on their own.
Appointment of Judges
The appointment of judges is another controversial topic where the judicial is
resisting transparency from the longest of times. The appointment of the Supreme
Court judges is made by the Chief Justice of India and four other judges on
whose recommendations the President appoints the Supreme Court judge. This is
where the appointment becomes dubious and all-inclusive. Whereas, on the
contrary, the political leaders are not selected but democratically elected.
However there is lack of transparency in this appointment. The qualification for
being a judge is a minimum practice of 10 years in the lower court. Only an
advocate who appears in the court regularly and conduct civil and criminal cases
can know the pulse of the court, prosecutor, witness and accused.
advocate who never conducted a case independently and appears as a carrier for
the documents and who hide behind their seniors can never manage a court as a
judge. This kind of judges who manage to get into the judiciary through
reservation quota is a shame to the judiciary and threat to the society.
kind of appointments has to be avoided for delivering justice for the poor
public. The constitution itself maintains that the judiciary is a singular
independent organ. But, what makes the matter worse is this singular
independence itself, this is because no one holds the judiciary responsible.
Since the judiciary is also the custodian of the Indian constitution, it can
declare any law or policy unconstitutional if it is against the basic structure
of the constitution.
Allocation of Cases
The sole authority to allocate cases is given to the chief justice of India. The
chief justice puts together benches as well as transfers cases whenever he feels
like. There is no proper protocol or method or criteria that are followed when
it comes to allocating these cases to certain judicial officials. On January 12,
2018, a rebellion against the then chief justice of India Deepak Misra was in
news. Justice Chalameshwar, Justice Rajan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur and
Justice Kurian Joseph had written to the judge expressing their concerns and
asking for an explanation for the allocation of cases. There was hardly any
transparency and the judge would allocate the cases as per his preference. This
becomes a cause of concern among the judges and it lacked transparency.
Contempt of Court
The contempt of court can be seen as a means to protect the independence of the
court, however it is mostly seen that the court has used this as a means of
shielding themselves from any criticism. Contempt is defined as any act that is
offensive and critical to the dignity and the authority of courts. According to
Oswald, “contempt of court is so manifold in its aspect that it is difficult to
lay down the exact definition of the offence.”
Contempt can be classified into two groups:
- Civil: means wilful disobedience of any, judgment, decree, direction, order
or any other processes of court
- Criminal: means publication of any matter or the doing of any other act
whatsoever which scandalizes or tends to lower the authority of any court.
During the British rule, India was not free and democratic, but today the
situation has changed. Questions therefore arise as to how can laws of those
days be applicable today. There is also problem with the definition, as there is
no definition as to what constitutes scandalizing the court as what was regarded
scandalous earlier may not be regarded today. The Contempt of Court Act 1952 has
also been criticized on the basis that it infringes two important fundamental
rights of the citizen, namely, the right to personal liberty and the right to
freedom of expression.
Given this allegation one is reminded of two important
cases that took place:
Arundhati Roy case: the problem arose as a result of the decision of
the Supreme Court, which ordered the concerned state governments to raise the
height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam up to 90 ft. This came as a great
disappointment to the Narmada Bachao Andolan as it would lead to more
submergence of the nearby villages. This was severely criticized and a notice of
contempt was served against Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar and advocate Prashant
Bhushan. The three however asserted that they were exercising their freedom
enshrined in the Constitution. The court held Arundhati Roy guilty and sentenced
her to one day imprisonment and a fine of Rs.2000. What was shocking and rather
patriarchal was condescendingly referring her as a “woman” whom they had treated
leniently by giving her one day punishment.
Mid-Day journalists had published documentary evidences against
Justice Sabharwal,who passed the orders of sealing commercial properties in residential
areas in Delhi, after his sons had got partnership with leading shopping malls.
These orders stood for their benefits. Yet no action was taken against him. It
was only after the convictions of four Mid-Day journalists for contempt, by
Delhi HC, that the news got coverage in the mainstream media29. This shows a
fear in the media which has deterred them from investigation against corruption
in judiciary. The fact is that this power is like a Damocles’ sword which hangs
over the neck of the people, particularly the media.
Nexus between Judges and Politicians
As it has been known that Executive and Judiciary are interdependent, the basis
of an existing nexus between Judges and Politicians is very much possible.
Therefore, whenever petitions against the executives are filed, that is straight
away heard in the Supreme Court. This provision calls for collusion of the
participants of these organs. Another notable factor is that the ruling party
that made the government gave a Rajya Sabha ticket to the ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi
out of the blue. This also tells about the ideological and favour-based nexus
that the politicians and judges share. A large number of crime suspects run for
MLA’s and MP’s to make themselves politically strong so that they influence the
Judiciary and to some extent, they succeed too.
History of Judicial corruption and scandals in India
Mr. Justice Sinha: Only Judge impeached; In 1949, justice S.P. Sinha of Allahabad High Court
was removed under the Government of India Act, 1935, just on the basis of
his judgment. That's the only instance of the removal of a judge in India
Ajit Sengupta: In 1996 the Calcutta High Court judge made it a routine
to issue ex parte, ad interim stay orders on anticipatory bail pleas from
smugglers having links with the Mumbai underworld. He was arrested in 1996 for
FERA violations after retirement.
A.M. Ahmad: When he was Chief Justice of India (October 1994-March
1997), his daughter, a lawyer in the Delhi High Court, caused eyebrows to be
raised for getting "special" treatment from certain judges. When some members of
the bar sought a resolution banning lawyer relatives of judges from staying in
the same house, the CJ I got members to defeat the motion.
Cash-for-job: Three judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court sought
the help of disgraced PPSC chief R.P. Sidhu to ensure that their daughters and
other kin topped examinations conducted by the commission. Judges were M.L.
Singh, Mehtab Singh Gill & Amarbir Singh Status in this case: Two inquiry panels
indicted the judges. Gill and Amarbir Singh have resigned M.L. Singh continues,
though no work is allotted to him
Three Judges Mysore Sex Scandal alleged: On Sunday, November 3, 2002,
three judges of the Karnataka High Court, along with two women advocates,
allegedly got involved in a brawl with a woman guest at a resort. The police
arrived but reportedly didn't take action. Judges are N.S. Veerabhadraiah V.
Gopalagowda & Chandrashekaraiah. Status in this case: The three-judge inquiry
committee appointed by the CJI filed its report. Gave clean chit.
Justice Karnan case: In March 2017 Supreme Court, in a rare move, has
initiated contempt proceedings against Justice C S Karnan, a sitting judge of
the Calcutta High Court, and has restrained him from hearing cases. Contempt
proceedings were initiated because he had levelled allegations of corruption
against several judges of the Supreme Court and high courts without
substantiating his claim with any evidence. He had written letters to the chief
justice of India and even to the Prime Minister with a series of allegations
against 20 high court judges. He also alleged that illegal money was recovered
from some high court judges after the government announced demonetization.
Justice A.K. Ganguly: Sexual harassment case, Sexual assault case intern
harassment case, Supreme Court, West Bengal Human Rights Commission, crime
against women, sexual harassment at workplace: Stella James, who graduated from NUJS Kolkata and works at the NGO Natural Justice, Lawyers for Communities and
the Environment, wrote about an alleged incident of physical, sexual assault by
an unnamed, retired Supreme Court judge in late 2012. In a post that was
published on the blog of the NUJS Journal of Indian Law and Society on 6
November, she wrote about trying to come to terms with her experience of 24
December 2012, Christmas Eve, ironically against the backdrop of the
then—ongoing Delhi gang rape protests.: Ganguly gets Centre’s clean chit in
intern case: Justice (retd) Asok Kumar Ganguly: The ministry of home affairs
(MHA) has cleared the air about Justice (retd) Asok Kumar Ganguly, saying there
is no case against him. It has referred to the Delhi Police's feedback that
there isn't adequate evidence to lodge an FIR against Justice Ganguly and no
probe is on against him.
It is impossible to find one common factor of judicial corruption; it seems like
the causes are many and over-lapping. Even so, it is crucial to identify the
individual factors in the states before developing and implementing actual
reforms. The effects of judicial corruption are many and detrimental for the
core of rule of law and fundamental principles, e.g. equality, impartiality,
integrity and propriety. A central issue is that systemized corruption is very
beneficial for everyone involved.
The harms are not always visible, but judicial
corruption contaminates the fairness of the judicial system indirectly and it
destroys the very purpose of the judiciary; to uphold justice. The ones without
sufficient resources to be a part of corruption, loses the protection that the
judiciary is supposed to secure.
Some of the most salient internationally supported strategies to eliminate
judicial corruption include preventive measures, such as education, increase of
transparency in the court processes, fair working conditions for judges and
court personnel, public information campaigns about corruption, and
implementation of anti-corruption norms and standards in the national systems.
Such strategies build a solid foundation for a healthy judiciary and they are
not very controversial with regard to judicial independence.
In some cases,
these strategies are not enough to rid the judicial system from corrupt behaviour and other measures must be applied in order to achieve a non-corrupt
judiciary. Such measures include reorganization of the judicial system, removal
and reappointment of judges and court personnel, and establishment of an
independent auditing body for judicial revision. These measures inevitably
interfere with the principle of judicial independence and must therefore be
carefully considered. The decision must be based on a balancing of possible
consequences when interfering with judicial independence to achieve the goal; a
- Corruption in Indian Judiciary-Yashveer Singh, World Wide Journal of
Multidisciplinary Research and Development
- Corruption Widespread in India, US report says available https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/corruption-widespread-in-India-US-report-says/articleshow/31143604.cms
- Orebro University, Legal Science Programme with International Approach
Spring 2010- Corruption in the Judiciary. www.diva-portal.org. Amelie Arvidsson,
- (Transparency and Accountability in the Indian Judicial System, 2019)
- (Corruption in Indian Judiciary-Time for action, 2017)
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sandra Santhosh
Authentication No: AP111812927762-28-0421