this somewhat depressing milieu of cultivated status-quoism,
Maharashtra High Court has shown refreshing courage, leadership
and resolve to improve the quality of judiciary. Some years
ago, a metropolitan judge was arrested after his links with
mafia became public. People started whispering about the
decline of judiciary too. In this backdrop, Mumbai High
Court proved that it is possible to significantly improve
level of integrity of individual officials is common knowledge
to those who are familiar with government functioning. Despite
this endless talk, the corrupt officials go scot-free. Mumbai
High Court, with its great tradition of integrity, independence
and competence, decided to remove this canker of corruption.
Mumbai Bar too is one of the most progressive in India,
free from the usual communal and caste prejudices. The High
Court has complete administrative control over subordinate
judges. There is a notional appeal to the Governor on the
administrative orders of the High Court, but as per Supreme
Court judgments the Governor again is bound by the advice
of the High Court in deciding the appeal. But so far these
powers have not been adequately exercised, and judicial
rectitude suffered on account of this indifference.
now Mumbai High Court acted decisively to cleanse subordinate
judiciary. Over the past 2 years, over 150 judicial officers
(over ten percent of the total) in Maharashtra have retired
voluntarily or compulsorily on allegations of corruption,
impropriety and incompetence. Special inspecting judges
looked into complaints of corruption. If there are credible
complaints or prima facie evidence of wrongdoing, the judge
in question is given the option of retiring with full benefits
including permission to practice law if he chooses to do
so. The other option is to face departmental enquiry and
risk dismissal with no retirement benefits and no right
to practice. Most judges chose to retire without demur.
A few resisted, and were dismissed.
went in appeal to the Supreme Court. The Court has held
that the departmental authorities have unlimited powers
of framing rules of conduct and rules of enquiries, freedom
of action untouched by Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence
Act, or even rules of natural justice in case of administrative
orders, full discretion in appreciating evidence, authority
of awarding any punishment after following rules of natural
justice, and immunity from reappreciation of evidence and
reversal of orders by judiciary. As Mr BJ Misar, a retired
IPS officer from Maharashtra says, the impression that our
legal system or judiciary obstructs anti-corruption measures,
or that the Constitution gives undue protection to corrupt
public servants is wrong.
Maharashtra High Court accomplished is a cause for celebration.
We can now say with confidence that corruption in judiciary
in a large State has been completely eliminated. This is
no small achievement. Maharashtra is larger than 90% of
the nations. If we can clean up a whole organ of state in
one major State, we can eliminate the scourge of corruption
from all branches of government all over India. All it takes
is will, professionalism, painstaking hard work and transparent
Some may cavil at allowing officials suspected of corruption
to retire. But the impossible best is often the enemy of
the possible good. When the problem is so large, swift action
and significant results are far more productive. We need
to act quickly and decisively to fight corruption and maladministration
everywhere. And we should learn to celebrate these wonderful
successes and replicate them.
suffers from a crisis of confidence on many fronts. The
nation owes a debt of gratitude to Maharashtra High Court
for showing us that big improvements are possible in our
society. We should capitalise on that and act decisively.
So far our politicians and bureaucrats have been complaining
most of the time, and have become a part of the problem
and not the solution. The example of judiciary in Maharashtra
should open our eyes and make us look for innovative and
courageous ways to improve our governance.