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Credibility of judiciary at stake?

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Credibility of judiciary at stake?
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The revelations of the Former Supreme Court Judge and Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju has triggered another controversy with an article regarding serious allegations of corruption in the Judicial system, on his blog, Satyam Bruyat, on Sunday.

Katju refereed to the appointment of a District Judge in Tamil Nadu that occurred during his tenure as Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004. Katju wrote in his blog that three ex chief Justices of India (CJI) namely, R.C. Lahoti, Y.K. Sabharwal and K.G. Balakrishnan, have made “improper compromises” in allowing extension to an additional judge of the Madras high court and later a permanent appointment due to the strong pressure from the UPA government and its ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) despite the Intelligence Bureau reports of the severe allegation of corruption against the judge.

While still being alleged, S. Ashok Kumar had assumed office directly as the District Judge. Eight adverse entries were registered against him while in service, by several judges in the Madras High Court. The then acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court had deleted all those complaints as a result of which Ashok Kumar became the Additional Judge of the High Court. Katju, after becoming the High Court Chief Justice wrote to the Supreme Court Chief Justice, R.S.Lahoti to initiate a secret intelligence investigation against the District Judge. Katju had made clear that the Intelligence Bureau had confirmed the complaints. Instead of removing the Judge after the completion of his term, he was allowed to continue in office by extending his term to another year by the then Supreme Court Chief Justice, Y.K.Sabharwal followed by a permanent appointment later by K.G. Balakrishnan.

An investigation into the matter later revealed the political pressures behind the graft. When the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalitha, made moves to arrest her political opponent, Karunanidhi, it was this Judge who issued the bail. The DMK in return, put pressure on the UPA government resulting in a favorable move for him in the form of extension of term and permanent appointment. The collegiums headed by the then Chief Justice Lahoti along with Justices Ruma Pal and Y.K.Sabharwal had requested the government to remove the corrupted Judge. But the DMK bent upon countering the matter politically, played the next move by accusing them of discrimination against the Judge and referred to eighteen SC/ST MPs. Katju disclosed that the DMK had also met with the Prime Minister before his departure for a foreign tour and warned of stepping down from the Parliament if no proper action was taken in the case. The UPA government was at the time sustained with the support from the DMK. A senior Congress leader, according to Katju, met with the Chief Justice Lahoti to resolve the matter and consequently the concerned Judge was allowed to continue in service.

The statements of the then Law Minister, H.R.Bhardwaj, further confirms the accusations with equal acceptance from Manmohan Singh. The incidents lucidly indicate that the law and justice system of the country is so vulnerable to the esurient politicians and their agendas. The Gopal Subramanium controversy is an instance. His name was left out from the list of four people to be upgraded to Supreme Court Judges due to objection from the Central government. According to Katju, the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, R M Lodha’s assurance that nobody would interfere in the independence of the judiciary, fell on deaf ears. The UPA government’s Law and Justice Standing Committee had recommended a creation of a Judicial Employment Commission for the transparency in the appointment of the judges. Minister for Law, Ravi Shankar Prasad have also backed the suggestion. In a country where the political leaders manipulate the rules and regulations set by the constitution, there is not much an ordinary citizen could do and it therefore has become crucial to liberate the Judiciary, the only savior of the common man, from their political influence.

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