Hon’ble Chief Justice of India,
New Delhi -1,
Fax: +91 11 233 83792,
September 21, 2010
Ref: Reforms necessary to secure proper judicial accountability – Statement in support of Prashant Bhushan.
Dear Mr. Chief Justice,
We, the undersigned, are citizens concerned for Mr. Prashant Bhushan and all those who have been exposing concrete cases of corruption in the higher judiciary of India. We intend to decry the attempts to gag the critical voices under the garb of contempt laws.
The fact that there is considerable corruption in the judiciary has been an open secret in this country for some time now. Unfortunately things have reached this pass because of the lack of any institutional mechanism to deal with complaints against judges of the higher judiciary, and the tendency of the judiciary to sweep cases of corruption under the carpet. This has been done on the mistaken notion that public exposure of corruption would damage the reputation and image of the judiciary and erode public confidence in it. The power of contempt of Court has often been used or threatened to be used to stifle the exposure of corruption (as in the Mid day case) or even outspoken criticism of the judiciary (as in Arundhati Roy’s case), or even a frank expression of opinion about the extent of corruption in the judiciary (as in the current case against Prashant Bhushan and Tehelka). All this has allowed the problem to fester and grow to alarming proportions.
We strongly believe that the time has come to put in place an independent Constitutional body which can examine complaints against judges and take action against judges committing misconduct. This must be independent of the executive as well as the judiciary and must function transparently. The time has also come to amend the antiquated and colonial law of Contempt of Court, which allows the courts to punish people for what they call ‘scandalizing the court’, or ‘lowering the authority of the court’. There is no reason for the court to be armed with such draconian powers which are supposedly for protecting the ‘dignity of the court’. The dignity and reputation of the courts depend on the actions and behaviour of their judges and cannot be affected by the allegations of disgruntled litigants. This law is merely serving to prevent exposure of corruption in the judiciary and to prevent a frank discussion of the nature and extent of the problem, which is the essential prerequisite for any reform.
We therefore call upon the Judiciary to immediately initiate wide public consultations for the reforms necessary to secure proper judicial accountability and urgently put in place the statutory and Constitutional amendments required for the purpose.