NEW DELHI: Concerned over judiciary‘s image coming under a cloud in the wake of corruption charges, Chief Justice S H Kapadia on Sarurday said there was a need for “clean man in black robe” and asked the political class not to protect corrupt judges. “We have to live by examples. We need a clean man in black robe to uphold the independence and integrity of the judiciary,” the CJI said while cautioning the judges from inevitably ending up in the political arena. The CJI said judges should maintain self restraint and avoid being in touch with lawyers, political parties, their leaders or ministers and high ranking judges should not interfere in the administrative work of court lower to it.
“Internal interference from a high ranking judge which, if resisted, could lead the lower ranking Judge being transferred or being denied promotion also needs to be deprecated. Similarly, political protection should not be given to corrupt judges,” Kapadia said at the fifth M C Setalvad memorial lecture.
“A judge must inevitably choose to be a little aloof and isolated from the community at large. He should not be in contact with lawyers, individuals or political parties, their leaders or ministers unless it be on purely social occasions,” he said. The CJI’s remarks assume significance as the issue of corruption allegedly involving sitting judges P D Dinakaran and Soumitra Sen, who are facing impeachment proceedings in Parliament, were raised by other speakers. Senior advocates Anil Divan and P P Rao voiced serious concerns over judges being involved in corruption.
The CJI began his speech by saying that “I am an eternal optimist and I can see that in future things are going to improve as far as integrity and as far as credibility of the Supreme Court is concerned.” Kapadia said the judges should not accept any type of patronage and stick to judicial norms. “The judge should not accept patronage through which he acquires office, preferential treatment or pre-retirement assignment. These can give rise to corruption if and when quid pro quo makes a demand on such judges”, he said. Kapadia stressed the need for protecting the integrity of judiciary saying “judges must keep the part of impartial, objective, fearless and independent justice alive”.
The CJI said he has avoided socialisation and even preferred not take the membership of any golf clubs as it would have left him mingling with advocates, politicians etc giving a negative impression to the people. “Frequent socializing with particular members of the legal profession or with the litigants, including potential litigants, is certain to raise, in the minds of others, the suspicion that the judge is susceptible to undue influence in the discharge of his duties,” he said. The CJI said there should be a fair criticism of judgements and irresponsible and illegitimate criticism should be avoided.
“Public and media criticism of judges and judgments is a common feature today throughout the common law world. Like other public institutions, the judiciary must be subject to a fair criticism. “But, what I am concerned with is response to criticism, particularly, criticism, that is illegitimate and irresponsible. “In the context of such illegitimate and irresponsible criticism, it must be borne in mind that love for justice is rare – what most people desire is justice which favours them.”