Corruption in Judiciary: Let truth precede judgment

Hope is the engine that propels life – individual and collective. Corruption has undeniably permeated all surfaces of public life, even those that were previously considered impregnable. The breach has been complete with only a few pockets of honesty and impartiality tucked away like stolen diamonds, or so it seems. An overwhelming majority of these ‘pockets’ are found in the judiciary, and if the recent unsavory aspersions cast on the holders of judicial offices are anything to go by, even these pockets seem to be dissolving at howsoever slow a rate. And our collective hope seems to be developing disturbing fissures.

Justice Dinakaran, who had already been recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court by the Supreme Court collegium headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Justice KG Balakrishnan, is now facing impeachment proceedings in Parliament on as many 16 corruption and land-grab charges, including the charge of inappropriate administrative actions as Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court to aid dishonest judicial decisions. The charges are quite alarming, to put rather mildly.

The Dinakaran probe did not leave Chief Justice Balakrishnan untouched because the collegium headed by him had cleared Justice Dinakaran’s elevation to the Supreme Court, and one of the most eminent Supreme Court lawyers and former Union Law Minister, Shanti Bhushan, scathingly remarked that Chief Justice Balakrishnan was “recommending all corrupt persons to become judges of the Supreme Court…particularly Justice Dinakaran was close to him…” While Mr. Bhushan’s did not categorically call the ex-CJI corrupt, he did in some measure insinuate to that effect. However, if the accusation is simply based on the fact that one of those recommended to be elevated was tainted, it is ill-founded because other judges were also similarly recommended and there is nothing to show that they were not unblemished.

One of the grave issues that Chief Justice Balakrishnan had to deal with during his tenure as the CJI was that of a Union Minister’s attempt at influencing a Madras High Court judge, Justice S. Reghupati, to have a favourable order passed in a criminal proceeding. When Justice Reghupati mentioned the attempt in the open court and it was reported in the media, Justice Balakrishnan took serious note of it and also remarked that if it was true, contempt of court proceedings could be initiated against the minister. He demanded a report from the then Chief Justice ofMadrasHigh Court, Justice H.L. Gokhale, on the issue. Justice Gokhale duly submitted his report to the CJI.

Although Justice Gokhale’s report to the CJI is not in public domain, it is still reasonable to assume – though it would still be conjectural – that Justice Gokhale, denying any personal knowledge of the incident, must have forwarded Justice Reghupati’s letter to Justice Balakrishnan. When asked about the Justice Gokhale’s report, Justice Balakrishnan categorically stated that the report did not mention the name of any Union Minister.

Justice Gokhale, on his part, set the record straight by saying that Justice Reghupati’s letter, which was forwarded to Justice Balakrishnan, clearly mentions the name of Union Minister A. Raja. The media played it up and quite a lot was made of this apparent inconsistency. It was projected that Justice Balakrishnan had something to hide or someone to shield.

Interestingly, there is no inconsistency between the statements issued by the two Justices. Justice Gokhale’s report might not have mentioned the minister’s name because Justice Reghupati’s letter to Justice Gokhale had been forwarded to Justice Balakrishnan. And since Justice Gokhale could not have added anything to the facts stated in Justice Reghupati’s letter, there was no occasion for him to mention Raja’s name. And, of course, Justice Reghupati never wrote to Justice Balakrishnan. So, there is no apparent falsity in either Justice Balakrishnan’s or Justice Gokhale’s statement, neither are the two statements strictly incompatible.

If Justice Gokhale’s report itself did not mention or indict Raja, which is quite possible because he did not personally witness the incident and could only cite Justice Reghupati’s version in this regard, it is not unimaginable that Justice Balakrishnan decided to rest the issue on the ground that he could only act on the basis of Justice Gokhale’s report, which did not indict any minister. Justice Reghupati’s letter did mention the name, but it was not addressed to the CJI. So, the matter technically remained in the hands of Justice Gokhale, who was fully empowered to initiate contempt proceedings against the minister.

Of course, nothing could stop the CJI to take matters in his hands, and his inaction might also be considered an error on his part but is not necessarily indicative of bias.

The other serious charge against Justice Balakrishnan is that his relatives garnered immense wealth during the time he was the CJI. To establish bias it must be established that any of his judicial or administrative actions were motivated by consideration for his relatives. It is not about whether his relatives ‘derived’ any benefits from his position but whether he ‘allowed’, ‘directed’ or ‘channeled’ the benefits to them or facilitated such channeling in any manner. So far there is nothing to suggest any such thing. Therefore, in absence of concrete evidence, we must exercise caution and not cast premature aspersions on the former holder of the nation’s highest judicial office.

Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE [April 2011 Issue; Vol. XVII, Part 4]

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6 thoughts on “Corruption in Judiciary: Let truth precede judgment

  1. Judges today ask law firms to finance their kids foreign LLM courses and there can be no proof of it. Law firms do a lot of favor to children of Judges and CITs and other people having bearing on their businesses and in return law firms also receive a lot of concession. To the best of my experience if a judge is vacating/passing injunction order and a CIT is making small assessment order it will be difficult to prove any illegality in them. Flexibility in our laws unfortunately permit all of that. There are inumerable ways of doing favours quite legally. if tomorrow enquiry is constitued to find out all the favors done i think it will be a difficult task. Question of Justice KGB allowing, directing or channelising favors arise only when it comes to taking any action agaisnt him and as pointed out earlier in our flexible law its very difficult to do unless and untill some one is as blatant as Dinkaran J. Moot question is that can a son of ordinary person gather so much of wealth.

    1. If one is corrupt, sooner or later, the truth would surface. However, until one is proved guilty, we must presume one’s innocence. Agreed, there are many ways to do small favours without many coming to know of it, but that alone does not mean that the favour was actually done.

      I agree that the moot point is of the wealth’s being inconsistent with one’s known sources of income, and existence of excess wealth constitutes a prima facie case of corruption. Once such evidence as to support at least a prima facie case comes up, there is no reason for one to point fingers.

      Just because a judgment or direction does not seem to hold much water does not mean that it is necessarily born of corrupt practices.

  2. But, what if there is direct evidence against a President of Consumer Forum. What he has done, he has wrapped up entire proceedings within 30 days from the date of filing of consumer complaint and that too in favour of a builder. On a single day, he alone received the evidence of both the parties, heard the arguments of both the parties and reserved the judgment whereas the Consumer Act provides the corum of the President and at least one member. On the last date, not only the judgment was pronounced but the orders were also dispatched to the parties. This is all evident from the order sheet. Now, please advise how and before which authority, the complaint against the said President lies and should be filed.

    1. Hello Mr. Dass,
      You can prefer an appeal to the State Commission under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and apprise the State Commission of the patent injustice apparent on the face of the record, the State Commission is duly empowered to rectify the error.

      Once the error has been duly noted and the Commission finds that the due procedure was circumvented for no justifiable reason, you need file any complaint any further. The issue is automatically noted.

      The Judiciary has an in-built mechanism that takes note of the mistakes that could not be made by any thinking judicial mind. Your concern would not go unnoticed. However, I would not advice you to insinuate corruption.

      Hope this response answers your questions. If any doubt remains, do let me know. I would try to be of as much help as I can be within my limited capacities.

      Regards

  3. Let some confusion be clarified. In the given case, I am not the party. The complainant and the builder filed the said complaint in utter collusion with each other in which the president, consumer forum took bribe and delivered the judgment within 30 days so that the builder can use the decision as a precedent. Since the complainant was in collusion, he did not prefer first appeal within the time of 30 days and after expiry of 30 days, he filed the appeal before the State Commission with an application for condonation of delay. The said application was opposed by the builder hence dismissed by the Commission with the result that main appeal also stands dismissed. In view of these facts, the builder has been using the said two orders before other courts also as precedents. Now, after inspecting the records, I found all these things that the hearing was made only by the President and the corum was not complete. Even on a single hearing, the evidence were filed by both the parties, arguments were heard and judgment was reserved. Apparently, there was a hurry on the part of the President and the entire proceedings were wrapped up only within 30 days.
    Therefore, I have do not have any locus to file appeal before the State Commission. I want to expose this gentleman and get him punished so please advise me the competent authority before whom I should file a complaint for judicial indiscipline and impropriety commiited by the President. I understand that he has just been retired from the post. Please help. Thanks a lot for your quick response, I really admire.

    L.G. Dass

  4. Wed Jun 19, 2013 05:30 PM
    “If I may, please re-think to see whether a correct title may have been: Corruption in Judiciary will be Innovation in Judiciary Until Truth as Fact Supports Judgments.
    US is world’s best democracy. India is world’s biggest democracy. The same old psychotic English common law principles and practice fathered their new even more psychotic legal systems. In the eyes of the psychotic law, thus, corruption is innovation. That is why US Supreme Court Rule 10 states that petitions for review from victims of Injustice are rarely granted when the asserted errors consist of erroneous factual findings or the misapplication of a properly stated rule of law to insure that errors and misapplications of laws are not reversed and corrected to serve Justice supported by correct factual findings and the correct application of laws as Justice should have been supported by, but was not, since day one even in England, Rome and Greece going all the way back to the days of Hammurabi.
    A self-correcting system is soon to be launched.
    Kmindopath (say Mindopath) Lalit K Jain
    New York USA

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