NEW DELHI: Just when exposes of scams have roiled the political class, Supreme Court has trained the spotlight on growing corruption in higher judiciary by a stunningly candid acknowledgement about the sleaze prevalent in the country’s largest High Court. “Something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court,” Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said on Friday as they expressed distress over rampant nepotism and corruption in the HC.
“Some judges (of the HC) have their kith and kin practising in the same court, and within a few years of starting practice, sons or relatives of the judges become multi-millionaires, have huge bank balances, luxurious cars, huge houses and are enjoying a luxurious life. This is a far cry from the days when sons and relatives of judges could derive no benefit from their relationship and had to struggle at the Bar like any other lawyer,” the Bench said.
“We are sorry to say but a lot of complaints are coming against certain judges of Allahabad HC relating to their integrity,” said the Bench while requesting the HC Chief Justice to take strong “house cleaning measures”, including recommending transfers, of the “incorrigibles”.
The observation echoed what many have felt for long but have been unable to express for fear of being punished for contempt of court.
Quoting Shakespeare’s “Something is rotten in Denmark” from Hamlet, the Bench said, “It can similarly be said that something is rotten in Allahabad High Court.”
The Allahabad HC is the largest in the country with a sanctioned strength of 160 judges. However, it is operating with only 73 judges as there are 87 vacancies.
However, the Bench clarified that all lawyers who had close relatives as judges of the HC could not be said to be misusing that relationship. “Some are scrupulously taking care that no one should lift a finger on this account (sic). However, others are shamelessly taking advantage of this relationship,” it said.
The trigger for the outburst came from the two ex-parte interim orders passed by a judge of Allahabad HC even when the issue concerned was outside the jurisdiction of the HC, belonging to the domain of Lucknow Bench of the HC.
The SC said, “We are of the opinion that the two ex-parte interim orders of the single judge of the Allahabad HC were clearly passed on extraneous considerations.”
Taking strong exception to such judicial misconduct, it said, “The faith of the common man of the country is shaken to the core by such shocking and outrageous orders such as the kind which have been passed by the single judge.” After venting their feelings, the two judges said both the Allahabad HC and its Lucknow Bench “needs some house cleaning”.
“We request the Chief Justice of the HC to do the needful, even if he has to take some strong measures, including recommending transfers of the incorrigibles,” the Bench said.
Wanting this order to have a salutary effect on the entire judiciary facing problems relating to corruption, the apex court said, “Let a copy of this order be sent to Registrar Generals/Registrars of all HCs for being placed before the chief justice of the respective HCs.”
There are 21 HCs in the country with a total sanctioned strength of 895 judges. However, nearly one-third of the posts, 285, are lying vacant. A total of 41 lakh cases were pending in the HCs as on March 31.
Justice Shylendra Kumar of Karnataka HC was probably the first sitting judge to have taken on corrupt judges by questioning Justice P D Dinakaran’s continuance as Chief Justice of the HC in his blog. Justice Kumar also said that under the existing constitutional scheme, the CJI lacks the teeth to fight against corruption. “He is a serpent without a fang,” Justice Kumar blogged.