Ordinarily, when an inquiry takes place on any serious charge, particularly of corruption, against any officer or incumbent of any office, the person is first of all suspended and prevented from discharging official duties. In the case of judges of the higher courts, it should be more appropriate that they voluntarily abstain from work, particularly when a ‘scrutiny’ is on at the Supreme Court level. What is expected of a judge is stated in the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life (Code of Conduct), and one of the important “values” (16) reads thus: “Every judge must at all times be conscious that he is under public gaze and there should be no act or omission by him which is unbecoming of the high office he occupies, and the public esteem in which that office is held.”
These salutary precedents seem to have been forgotten. The CJI recommends impeachment of a judge of the Calcutta High Court (Justice Soumitra Sen), and the judge refuses to resign. What’s more, the chief justice of the high court does not seem to have withdrawn any work from the impugned judge. The same is the case with other judges named in the Ghaziabad provident fund scam case.
Scales awry: Justices Soumitra Sen and V. Ramaswami
In the case of Justice V. Ramaswami, 12 of the 14 charges were held proved. The charges, inter alia, related to criminal misappropriation, cheating and so on. No prosecution was ever launched against him, even after retirement. In the case of Chief Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee of the Bombay High Court, where the allegation was that he had received a disproportionately large sum of $80,000 in royalty from a suspect publisher in West Asia for the second edition of a book on Muslim Law and the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court just declined to order any investigation or inquiry on those allegations. The court further said the constitutional provisions of impeachment “put the nail squarely on the projections, prosecutions or attempts by any forum or group of individuals or associations, statutory or otherwise, either to investigate or inquire into or discuss the conduct of a judge or the performance of his duties and on/off court behaviour”. Thus, the Supreme Court lost the opportunity to lay down guidelines in Justice Bhattacharjee’s case. The Supreme Court itself could have inquired into his conduct. It didn’t. It just closed its eyes, like the ostrich burying its head in the sand. So the same is likely to take place in the present case.
M.C. Setalvad, the first attorney-general of India, in his book, My Life, refers to the episode of the chief justice of the Patna High Court being accused of giving a false age at the time of his appointment and how P.B. Gajendragadkar, the then chief justice of India, persuaded him to resign without any investigation. Setalvad says: “The canker appears to have spread even in the highest judiciary...it is surprising that the persons in high places who have repeatedly, eloquently condemned corruption of all kinds on the public platform should be parties to draw a veil of silence and secrecy on the alleged corruption of the chief justice...(and) they seem to imagine that by avoiding...the allegation against the chief justice, they are saving the judiciary...from exposure; they forget that what they are trying to conceal is known to all lawyers and concerned citizens.”
It is, therefore, necessary to amend the Constitution to provide for the dismissal of at least such errant judges as have proven charges of corruption, bribery and such other acts of misconduct, which would fall beyond the ambit of appropriate judicial behaviour. There should be an independent complaint mechanism and an independent tribunal for investigation and appropriate action. In proper cases, there could be prosecution under the criminal law.
Our law minister has been saying no tainted judge will be allowed to continue. But so far, he has not quite spelled out the proposed law to bring that about. If one has to judge by what he did in the last Lok Sabha session, he seems to be suffering from the belief that the proposed law should in fact have the nod from the judiciary (“as you please, my Lord”). That’s the reason the UPA-I government could not bring in any appropriate law, either on the appointment or performance of the judges. The government must know that any consent from the judiciary, even if given, is no guarantee that the law would be later held constitutionally valid. It will have to be tested independently.
It is hoped that the government will appreciate the urgency of the situation in which the confidence of the public in the judiciary is fast eroding because of the presence of such errant judges. This should not be yet another missed opportunity. In any event, one must acknowledge that the situation being an extraordinary one, the Supreme Court (not necessarily the CJI) should suo motu consider an innovative approach of issuing an appropriate writ or order directing Justice Dinakaran to abstain from discharging his judicial functions. That may sound extraordinary, but it could prove necessary, not for the protection of the corrupt or dishonest, but for protecting the reputations of several other honest, conscientious and hard-working judges.
Finally, one must know that judicial integrity is not just a private virtue, but a public necessity. The situation demands action—not inaction.
(The writer is a former judge of the Bombay High Court.)
While I agree with Justice (retd) Hosbet Suresh (Please Ban This, By Law or Judicial Decree, Dec 7), who will bell the cat? Besides, the judiciary cannot survive in an island of virtue when all around it the world is corrupted. K.V.S. Kumar, Mumbai
Who is interested in cleaning up the judiciary? I suggest that only the corrupt be appointed judges, with a rate list for the various types of judgement. Why, cases could also be conducted as auctions, verdicts going to the highest bidder! Naveen K. Singhal, Rohtak
A time-honoured instrument that ruling parties adopt to corrupt serving judges is to offer them post-retirement employment as head of some commission or the other, prolonging their earnings by at least a decade, if not more. D.R., on e-mail
To say the Indian judiciary is a “shame” is to insult the concept of shame. Deep Dink, Mumbai
It is quite sensible to desire that no corrupt person occupies a judicial chair. But the government should not succumb to pressures exerted by malefic forces in taking a decision on any particular judge. A.K. Biswas, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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