March 11, 2006
PM Underscores Tackling Corruption In Judiciary*
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – Corruption in the judiciary and court delays were counted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today among common litigants’ problems that must be examined and remedied.
”Instances of corruption have now begun to surface in our judicial system, too,” Dr Singh remarked, opening a conference of state chief ministers and high court chief justices at Vigyan Bhavan.
The conference centring on Justice: Accelerated and Affordable heard a keynote address by Chief Justice Yogesh Kumar Sabharwal promising ”zero tolerance” to corruption and a welcome address by Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj.
The Prime Minister emphasised that ”an important aspect of the reform and modernisation of the judiciary and improving the incentive mechanism, is to tackle corruption in the judiciary.”
Dr Singh said the prosecution trend where cases ”fall because witnesses turn hostile or change their evidence is causing concern to ever increasing sections of society.”
The allusion applied to the infamous Jessica Lal case outcome– absolving all nine accused in a murder committed in a packed bar room seven years ago.
The outcome sent a wave of shock across the nation, leading to calls for an effective system of justice which actually punishes criminals and violators and relieves victims.
The widespread public concern was acknowledged by the Prime Minister who stressed ”need for all of us to reflect whether the existing procedures are adequate and foolproof.”
Dr Singh called for an introspection ”whether we are using all available provisions to prevent deviant behaviour and whether we need new provisions in law so that the justice system is seen to deliver justice.”
Speaking as a ”lay man,” the Prime Minister said ”apart from delay in settlement of cases, lengthy court procedures, frequent adjournments, evidence taking procedures, corruption in the judiciary is also a problem of public concern that we must address.”
Dr Singh referred to the ever mounting court case arrears– currently close to 30 million– a problem which ”requires urgent attention.”
Acknowledging that the ”criminal justice delivery system appears to be on the verge of collapse due to diverse reasons,” Justice Sabharwal asserted that ”some of the responsibility will have to be shared by the executive branch of the state.
”Not much has been done for improvement of the investigative and prosecution machinery. Significant suggestions for separation of investigative wing from law and order duties and changes in rules of evidence still lie unattended.”
Justice Sabharwal noted that the public outrage over the failure of the criminal justice system in some recent high profile cases ”must shake us all up into the realisation that something needs to be urgently done to revamp the whole process, though steering clear of knee jerk reactions, remembering that law is a serious business.”
Justice Sabharwal said the main reason for persistent pendencies ”is huge increase in new cases instituted,” adding that it reflected ”more awareness and more rights created by numerous new legislations.”
But he cautioned that if the huge arrears of about three crores in high courts and subordinate courts is not tackled now there would be ”no magic wand available to tackle the menace” when they climb to three and a half crores or four crores. ”We have to turn the tide now. It is now or never.”
Justice Sabharwal said while judiciary was held responsible for mounting arrears, it neither has any control on resources of funds nor any powers to create additional courts or hire staff.
He suggested giving high courts at least ‘limited financial autonomy’ and backing up judicial efforts to bring about urgent legal reforms so as to galavanise the system to ”provide complete justice” instead of subjecting vital proposals for procedural laws to endless debates.
The Chief Justice said the judiciary ”craves for full support from the government. The process of appointments of judges in the high courts at the level of government needs to be expedited.”
He said the topic of corruption was a burning issue in all spheres of public life. The judiciary was committed to continue cleansing itself by coming down with a heavy hand on unscrupulous elements that may exist within and also by removing the deadwood. ”We have adopted a policy of zero tolerance on this subject.”
Referring to the outcomes of past such conferences, Justice Sabharwal said, ”we have been cajoled enough to sit up and take notice. It is time we proceeded to stand up and take action.”
The delays in filling judicial vacancies was acknowledged by the Law and Justice Minister who said the working strength of judges in courts needed to be ”optimised.”
Mr Bhardwaj said that ”though there are still about 100 vacancies of judges to be filled up in various high courts, we could achieve (an) all time high of incumbency, which is 560.”
India’s 21 high courts between them have a total sanctioned strength of close to 700, but remain perennially underfilled.
Mr Bhardwaj said that in district and subordinate courts, too, 2,655 of 14,305 judicial posts were vacant and urged participants to take timely action to fill up vacancies.
Earlier, the Prime Minister urged the Chief Justice and his colleagues to ”lead and guide the judiciary to achieve the formidable goal of reducing pendency and providing speedier and more affordable justice to the common man.”
Dr Singh declared the central government’s ”full support” in this endeavour and also urged the Chief Ministers to make available the necessary infrastructure needed by courts to ensure their effective functioning.
He stressed the need to maintain credibility of the system, improve the utilisation of existing laws and regulations, effective mechanism to ensure judicial accountability and a balanced approach in taking up PIL cases.
Underlining the need to exercise restraint in judicial activism, Dr Singh observed that it must also take adequately into account the administrative viability of the reform process.
UNI MJ NK DS1527
- Corruption In Judiciary (vanguardngr.com)
- Judiciary analysis: Independent in name only (dailynewsegypt.com)
- ‘Activists keep arguing that it takes too long to prove a man guilty. But is that fair grounds to reject the rule of law in favour of kangaroo trials? (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Judges don’t make money like lawyers – Justice Itam, Cross River CJ (vanguardngr.com)
- Accountability Bill won’t cut into judicial independence, says Ashwani Kumar (thehindu.com)
- More transparent judiciary (leytesamardaily.net)
- Allowing judges to challenge board against legal provision (nation.co.ke)
- ‘Clean up act or face the music’ (thehindu.com)
- Nepotism in judiciary (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- Judicial Corruption and Threats to Human Rights (lawprofessors.typepad.com)