Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Corruption in the judiciary

Corruption in the judiciary is a difficult issue for the Government and for other investigative arms such as the media to handle. The judiciary has a much higher respect that most other arms of the Government, and the judges are also armed with contempt laws that can scare most people. So it has been the stuff of rumors and whispers, this entire talk about corruption in the judiciary. It is exceedingly hard to remove a sitting judge, especially when the judges are in the higher courts. The first such case that reached the stage of Parliament was the case involving Justice Ramaswamy in 1990 (Parliament ultimately did not vote to impeach him since the Congress MP's decided to abstain).
Corruption in the judiciary takes 2 main forms - one form is when judges are accused of deciding cases based on extraneous factors or under some influence (and the related case is similar to the case in Chandigarh where a huge amount of money was delivered at the doorstep of a judge); the other case is when the judges are accused of misusing money to augment their lifestyle - consider this case where the judges misused the Provident Fund money (the hard earned money that goes towards the pension needs for workers)

The CBI has unearthed shocking details of how hard-earned provident fund savings of class III and IV employees of Ghaziabad courts were illegally spent on furniture, crockery, mobiles, gadgets, laptops, rail tickets, taxi fares and other luxury items for judges. The report shows that the district judges, who were heading the Ghaziabad judiciary during the scam period, not only made expensive purchases from the scam money, they also spent it on photography and video-recording of family functions and marriages.
The preliminary findings reflect the judges' weakness for electronic goods, especially mobile phones. "As many as 45 original bills have been seized from a Ghaziabad showroom denoting sale of many expensive electronic gadgets and appliances to various members of judiciary," the status report reveals. After a preliminary probe that tracked Asthana's mobile call details, the CBI chanced upon purchase of four laptops, miscellaneous computer peripherals including monitors, CPUs, cameras and printers. The probe was entrusted to CBI by the apex court after the UP police, which first investigated the matter, chickened out terming the task of investigating 35 judges as daunting.

The redeeming factor in this entire case has been the attitude of the Chief Justice of India who has apparently shown that he wants to try and take a much harder line of cases where judges have either been accused of corruption or of misuse. In this case as well, the CBI has been investigating the case after clearance from the CJI, and even though there are many other instances of judges feeling themselves to be above everybody else (case being where the judges refuse to let themselves come under the ambit of the RTI law), these cases of corruption are important to take to their legitimate conclusion.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 6:16 AM