|Tuesday, 04 January 2011 00:00|
The year ended with all manner of corruption allegations levelled against politicians as well as bureaucrats, and even the media saw its reputation getting hit, but the one group that, by and large, came out smelling of roses was the judiciary. It was the one group perceived to be able to fix the rot within; indeed, it is well-accepted that, had it not been for the pro-active judiciary, the government would never have got moving on the A Raja scam. And since it looks as if the government has no plans to move on some other aspects of the scam, more PILs have been filed on these aspects in the Supreme Court. It is in this context that the allegations being made against former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan have to be seen and addressed quickly. Allegations are being made that Balakrishnan’s son-in-law acquired a lot of assets at roughly the same time Balakrishnan was the CJI. It is possible that a probe will prove the allegations are baseless, but this is where the government needs to be pro-active. In the current environment, the judiciary is one of the few beacons of hope, despite there being several cases of corruption within the judiciary and the unseemly fight over whether judges needed to declare their assets. Any delay in clearing the air on the ex-CJI will only harm the judiciary’s reputation.
The current procedure of dealing with allegations of corruption against judges is antiquated and cumbersome since the only way to remove a judge is through an impeachment. We have seen how that has rarely happened—in one case, when it looked certain a judge would be impeached, the Congress party walked out of Parliament. In other cases, such as the one currently before Parliament, the process has been seen to be tortuous and time-consuming. The Judges Standard and Accountability Bill, if brought in quickly enough, would help ensure all allegations of corruption could be dealt with quickly since there will be an oversight committee to work exclusively on probes. This is in the interests of the judiciary as well as the executive. A weakening of either can hardly be in anyone’s interest.