Kanan Jaswal's Blog on Leadership

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are judges above the law?

Howsoever corrupt or incompetent, the Supreme and High Court judges can't be dismissed, they can only be impeached by Parliament. And the process is so difficult that no judge has ever been impeached in independent India's 62 years though we have had more than our share of corrupt and incompetent judges. Talking only of the former chief justices of the Supreme Court - (1) One, who got less than a month in the top position, transferred all cases against the Jain Shuddha Vanaspati, accused of mixing imported tallow with hydrogenated vegetable oil, to his own court and granted acquittal in almost all cases. (2) There was this person who imposed a fine of only US$470 million on Union Carbide and freed the company of all civil and criminal liabilities in the Bhopal gas genocide, the 25th anniversary of which is falling this night. In the USA, the fine would have been no less than US$10 billion, ruining Union Carbide completely. As a reward, our man was appointed a judge on the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands. (3) Another had two of his children living with him in his official residence and practising as lawyers at the Supreme Court. Need I say that both of them had roaring practice? Making hay while the sun (father, in this case) shines? (4) Yet another was hell bent on ordering sealing of commercial establishments in non-conforming areas of Delhi, thousands of shops etc. were thus sealed. It was just a happy coincidence that his two sons were in the construction business and were building malls and other shopping complexes in Delhi to which many of the shopkeepers, who had their shops sealed, had to relocate. A point to note - his sons gave out their father's official residence as their business address.

There is, therefore, a very strong case for setting up a National Judicial Commission to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts and discipline and dismiss them, if need be. It could be a five member Commission with the prime minister, leader of the Opposition, chief justice of India, chief vigilance commissioner and an eminent jurist on it.

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