Judicial Corruption in India: A Critical Stocktaking

By Chakraborty, Shiladitya | Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Judicial Corruption in India: A Critical Stocktaking


Chakraborty, Shiladitya, Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences


The judicial system in any country across the globe constitutes the bedrock of good governance. Unfortunately, the halo around the Indian judiciary has been dimmed due to the increasing spate of incidents of corruption in recent times. The rising tides of corruption involving the high priests of the Indian judiciary raises a number of fundamental questions like what are the factors behind the growth of corruption in the Indian judiciary and what effective steps can be taken to stem this malady plaguing Indian judiciary. This article seeks to reflect upon these questions and find out the causes that have generated corruption in the judiciary. It also tries to provide practical and already tested solutions to deal with the problem of corruption in the Indian judicial system.

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"Dharma being destroyed will destroy; being preserved will preserve; it must never therefore be violated. Beware Oh, Judge, lest Dharma being overturned overturns both us and thyself." (MANU) (Thakur 1979: 74). This profound statement of the ancient Indian lawmaker Manu amply makes it clear that justice is the basic ingredient for establishing rule of law and ensuring good governance. Justice must not merely be done. It is also essential that it is seen to be done. Therefore, the actions of the Indian judiciary must reaffirm peoples' faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. However, several unfortunate incidents in recent times have marred the once spotless image of the Indian Judiciary. Hit by at least three scandals involving judges, the halo around India's higher judiciary has dimmed and it has lost its erstwhile tag of being a holy cow. The first case involved the impeachment of Calcutta High Court judge Justice Soumitra Sen. Justice Sen, who was appointed as a judge of Kolkata HC on December 3, 2003, was found guilty of misappropriating sale proceeds to the tune of Rs. 24 lakhs in the 1990s in connection to a case where he was appointed a receiver. In addition, he had unauthorisedly invested Rs. 25 lakhs from another account of the High Court's fund in the mid-1980s. The startling revelations about criminal misappropriation of the court's fund by Justice Sen became public after Chief Justice Balakrishnan wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recommending ouster of the erring judge through impeachment. The government is yet to start the impeachment process (Panel to pave way for Justice Sen's ouster, Dhananjay Mahapatra, March 2009). Another scandal to hit the judiciary involved the siphoning off of millions of rupees worth of social security funds of lower grade court employees in Ghaziabad for the benefit of the high priests of judiciary. The case is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The judges who allegedly benefited from the fraudulently withdrawn fund of Rs. 23 crores from Ghaziabad District Treasury since 2000 included one of the Supreme Court judges besides around a dozen judges of the Allahabad High Court and several others of the Uttar Pradesh subordinate judiciary (PF scare to claim HC Judge Dhananjay Mahapatra, November 2008, Times of India). There was another bizarre incident where the erstwhile Haryana Additional Advocate General Sanjiv Bansal's clerk delivered a bag full of cash worth Rs. 15 lakhs at the residence of Justice Nirmaljit Singh Kaur of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh in August 2008. Justice Kaur reported the matter to the police and the initial probe revealed that the cash was meant for another woman judge of the same High Court, Justice Nirmal Yadav. This case too is being probed by the CBI (Sharma, September 2008). The following incidents show that corruption in Indian judicial system has gained pandemic proportion.

Before we begin any discussion on judicial corruption, it is essential to first define judicial corruption. The concept of corruption emerged from the Latin word Corrupts meanings decay or degeneration. A very commonly accepted definition of corruption has been given by Carl Friedrich as "a deviant behaviour associated with a particular motivation, namely that of private gain at public expense. …

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