Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Removing Corrupt Judges

Judicial corruption is the worst corruption. Judges are the ultimate hope for justice and when they are corrupt justice is denied.

Judges enjoy constitutional protection so they may do their job fearlessly. The procedure for removal of corrupt judges of Supreme Court or High Court is long and difficult. A motion has to be moved in Lok Sabha, signed by 100 members, or in Rajya Sabha, signed by 50 members. When the motion is admitted the speaker of chairman appoints a committee of three members. When the committee submits report recommending the removal of the judge the motion is put to vote and must be passed by two-thirds majority in both houses. The voting is presented to the president of India and the president removes the judge.

To simplify the procedure the law minister introduced the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in November 2010. A person can make a complaint against any judge which will go to a committee of judges for scrutiny. The committee can dismiss the complaint if it finds it frivolous or send it to National (Judicial) Oversights Committee which may give a warning to the judge or recommend his removal.

Some have opposed the bill saying good judges far outnumber the bad and it is better to catch the bad eggs when they retire. That argument is not valid. One rotten egg in a basket spreads rottenness to other eggs. Catching judges after they have retired is locking the stable after horses have bolted. A corrupt judge has to be removed soon after his/her corruption is known. He or she should not be allowed to hold office for years after that.

Another argument is that the bill will make judges more populist and less fearless and in these times we need fearless judges. This argument overlooks the fact that we need fearless judges at all times. Our times are not much different from other times. There were corrupt judges at the time of Daniel, that was in 7th-6th century BC. Indira Gandhi spoke of committed judiciary and judges who did not deliver judgments according to her wishes were not promoted. During Emergency, Supreme Court judges except one effectively said the government can get away with murder when they did not uphold the right to life and liberty.

To say that with the aid of PIL judges can deal effectively with corrupt judges is to ignore the fact that some judges got appointed to the Supreme Court in spite of the president making known to the collegium of judges the corruption of those judges.

To say that if a sitting judge is found to be corrupt then with the permission of the CJI a criminal prosecution can be launched is to ignore the fact that CJI K. G. Balakrishnan refused permission to prosecute Nirmal Yadav. CBI wanted to close the case. The court told CBI to ask permission again. K. G. Balakrishnan retired and S. H. Kapadia became CJI and he gave permission. Then the Government of India sat on permission and gave it only when Nirmal Yadav was about to retire.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill may be made more simple. The scrutiny committee for scrutiny of complaints about Supreme Court judges may have MPs as members and the scrutiny committee for scrutiny of complaints about High Court judges may have MLAs as members. National (Judicial) Oversights Committee may have MPs as members.

Corrupt Chief Justices of India

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