such episodes of corruption are both bad news and good news.
news because, we now know that even some of the honourable
judges are no less corrupt than our netas or babus. The
common man's faith in Indian judiciary as the last-standing
gatekeeper of her/his liberty has been wounded. But why
should judicial corruption come as good news? Because, judicial
corruption only reflects a systemic crisis and is driven
by the existing rules of the governance game. This crisis
is a great opportunity for the director (The Supreme Court)
and producer (The Parliament) to bring in key reforms to
minimize corruption and eliminate incompetence. Individual
actors (the subordinate judges, the court officials or the
citizens) have a limited role in the overall show - their
behaviour generally follows the 'script' given to them.
key steps will help dramatically improve the script of the
Indian judicial system:
Removing the corrupt from the present class of subordinate
judges. Article 235 of our Constitution gives High Courts
significant administrative and supervisory powers over their
subordinate courts. The High Courts must not shy away from
invoking these powers, especially in issues related to conduct
and discipline of judges.
wisely applied, this (most under-utilized) self-correcting
mechanism of Indian judicial system has yielded dramatically
positive results. Consider this: even though reliable information
on corrupt judges and court officers is available, they
generally escape penalty, mostly due to inaction from their
superiors. That was until the Bombay High Court directed
the removal of about 150 subordinate court judges on grounds
of corruption in the past couple of years. High Courts in
Rajasthan and West Bengal also acted similarly to remove
several tainted judges in subordinate courts. And in every
single instance of appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the
High courts' decisions.
Second, improving the overall quality of incoming subordinate
judges. This is necessary also because many higher court
judges are drawn from the subordinate judiciary. It is therefore
imperative that only the brightest and most eligible youngsters
be selected at the level of District Judges. They should
be recruited through a nationwide, truly competitive examination
for the Indian Judicial Service (IJS). The Parliament should
quickly create the IJS under Article 312 of the Constitution.
Third, ensuring the excellence of higher court judges. (Former)
Chief Justice Bharucha himself once said that India has
too many corrupt and inefficient judges in the higher courts.
There is an immediate need to establish a National Judicial
Commission (NJC; still in the proposal stage) that has the
powers to both recommend appointments as well as effect
dismissals of judges in higher courts. Article 124 of the
Constitution should be suitably amended to facilitate the
creation of the NJC.
The existing rules in Indian judicial system have repeatedly
produced delayed justice, incompetent and corrupt judges
and court officials. Only when the script is significantly
improved can our judiciary serve the needs of our democracy
more effectively. Until then, we Indians are waiting for
the Parliament and the Honourable Supreme Court to give
us a 'great Judicial hit'!