Monday, 13 April 2015
I sent this article to four leading English newspapers, but none of them had the courage to publish it, as evidently they are scared of the contempt power of the judiciary. So I suppose I have to bell the cat myself. So I am posting it on facebook and on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in.
The title of the article has been borrowed from Emile Zola's famous article ' J'accuse ' ( I accuse ) protesting against the conviction of Captain Dreyfus, an innocent French army officer who had been falsely found guilty of spying for the Germans on the basis of fabricated evidence.
When I started law practice in the Allahabad High Court in 1971 there was no corrupt judge in the High Court, or probably in any High Court in India ( though corruption had crept into the subordinate judiciary.). Later, corruption entered the High Courts, and steadily increased, so much so that in 1994, during the tenure of Justice Venkatachaliah as Chief Justice of India a large number of High Court Judges had to be transferred on the ground of corruption. In 2001 the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Bharucha, said that 20% High Court Judges in India could be corrupt. My own estimate is that today that figure could be as high as 50%.
In Raja Khan vs. U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board ( 2011) a bench of myself and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra were constrained to say " Something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court."
Mr. Shanti Bhushan, a very senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, and former Union Law Minister, some years back filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that half the previous 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt. Since then probably more names could be added to that list.
-By Justice Markandey Katju
By rejecting Mr. Shanti Bhushan's petition seeking registration of an F.I.R. against Justice C.K. Prasad for gross corruption, the Indian Supreme Court has once again sought to bury corruption by one of its own members under the carpet, forgetting that however much one may seek to conceal it, the bulge will show.
The case against Justice Prasad appeared to me quite convincing. There was a 35 hectare ( 88 acre ) Cidco prime land at Sea Wood Estate in Nerul in Navi Mumbai allegedly worth Rs. 1000 crore. This was awarded to one Mr. Mistry for a pittance of Rs.33 crore. The Bombay High Court struck this down and ordered a re-tender. An appeal against this verdict was pending before a 3 Judge bench of the Supreme Court, when Justice Prasad, heading a 2 Judge bench dragged the case to his own bench by tagging it with an unrelated criminal appeal listed before him, and decided the case in a few minutes.
Mr. Dushyant Dave, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, in his letter to the Chief Justice of India, gave details of how Justice Prasad got the case put up before his 2 Judge bench ( when only the Chief Justice, who is the master of the roster, can order a case to be put up before a particular bench ), and decided it hurriedly, apparently in a pre-determined manner, to give colossal benefit to a party.
In his letter Mr. Dave wrote " Why was the bench headed by Justice Prasad so keen to hear the land matter in such unnatural haste in violation of judicial propriety and decorum ? ". He also added " The judgment brushed away without debate the damning High Court findings.and direction for a re-tender. So Mistry gets 35 hectares land for a song "
Prima facie this was a clear case of corruption, and so it surely deserved an investigation by the police, for which an F.I.R. was necessary. Therefore the writ petition of Mr. Bhushan praying for registering of an F.I.R. against Justice Prasad clearly deserved to be allowed.
I had earlier in an article published in Times of India written about a corrupt Judge of Madras High Court, in whose favour 3 Chief Justices of India made improper compromises because the leader of a political party in Tamilnadu was giving him protection. When this news was published the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Lodha, said that some people ( meaning obviously me ) were trying to defame the judiciary. So according to Justice Lodha, and many others of his thinking, corruption by Judges does not defame the judiciary, but exposing that corruption defames it ! Strange logic.
Subsequently I was vindicated when a letter by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supporting that corrupt judge surfaced, and also by the statement of Justice Ruma Pal, who was at the relevant time in the 3 Judge Collegium of the Supreme Court, in my support.
The same logic was applied by the 2 Judge bench headed by Justice Deepak Mishra which said that
ordering an F.i.R. would be ' opening dangerous doors '. In fact this 2 Judge bench shockingly violated judicial discipline by not following the 5 Judge Constitution bench decision of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari vs. Govt of U.P. which had categorically held ( in paragraph 111 of its verdict ) that registration of an F.I.R. in such a case was mandatory.
Justice Marlapalle of the Bombay High Court who passed the order appealed against said that if the contents of Dushyant Dave's letter to the CJI were correct he would hang his head in shame.
I now therefore make the following accusations :
I accuse the Indian judiciary of repeatedly burying corruption by its own members under the carpet.
I accuse it of being hypocritical by speaking against corruption by politicians and bureaucrats, but deliberately protecting its own corrupt brethren.
I accuse it of using, or threatening to use the Contempt of Court Act as a weapon to terrorize people who speak against its corruption or some of its grossly improper verdicts, but refusing to take action for contempt against the high and mighty e.g. in P.N.Duda's case , A.I.R. 1988 S.C.1208 where a Union Minister had said that the Supreme Court sympathized with zamindars and bank magnates, and that " FERA violaters, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries have found their haven in the Supreme Court ", and that Supreme Court Judges have unconcealed sympathy for the haves. No action was taken against the Union Minister. Mr. Nariman, the eminemt lawyer wondered whether if this statement had been made been made by an ordinary citizen he would have been let off ?
I accuse the present CJI Dattu of shameless sycophancy in praising the Prime Minister, which is reminiscient of the shameless s letter sent by Justice P.N. Bhagwati to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi praising her.
And in the case of Justice C.K. Prasad, I accuse the bench headed by Justice Deepak Mishra of shielding, even by shockingly violating judicial discipline, a Judge who so patently gave a corrupt verdict.