Press Council for court guidelines, The Hindu opposes idea

Don’t embark on a futile exercise, Shanti Bhushan tells Supreme Court Constitution Bench

The Press Council of India (PCI) on Tuesday suggested that the Supreme Court frame guidelines for the media as these would be in the interest of not only administration of justice and rights of the litigant public but also the media themselves.

“The media, both print and electronic, have been playing an important role in shaping and sustaining Indian democracy,” senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the PCI, told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia. “The scheme of the Press Council Act itself shows that the intention of Parliament is to allow self-regulation by the media as far as possible. While the print media is within the purview of the Press Council Act, the electronic media is not. Therefore, it is desirable to lay down guidelines for both the print and electronic media to follow in reporting court proceedings, rather than making statutory rules.”

Mr. Rao told the Bench, which included Justices D.K. Jain, S.S. Nijjar, Ranjana Desai and J.S. Khehar, that the court, while framing the guidelines, might take into consideration the relevant norms of journalistic conduct laid down by the PCI. Explaining the powers of the PCI, counsel said: “Section 14(1) of the Press Council Act confers on the Council power to warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, news agency, the editor and the journalist or disapprove [of] the conduct of the editor or the journalist, as the case may be, after holding an enquiry into the complaints. The Council, which is presided over by a retired judge of this court and in which editors, working journalists and managements of big, medium and small newspapers are represented, has laid down Norms of Journalistic Conduct. Self-regulation is always better than statutory regulation. However, when any TV channel, newspaper or news agency fails to adhere to the guidelines laid down by this court, appropriate orders may be passed in the facts and circumstances of each case.”

“Dissolve Bench”

The former Law Minister, Shanti Bhushan, appearing for some journalists, asked the CJI to dissolve the Constitution Bench hearing the present case, saying it would be a futile exercise. He cited an instance of the former CJI, Justice A.N. Ray, dissolving a 13-judge Bench after he found no support for his case. Mr. Bhushan was referring to a move by Justice Ray, who set up the 13-judge Bench to reconsider the Kesavananda Bharti judgment in which the court had held that Parliament had no right to amend the basic structure of the Constitution.

Mr. Bhushan asked the Bench not to embark on a futile exercise which would be detrimental to the rights of the press and destroy democracy in this country. “No purpose will be solved by going through this exercise.”

Taking the Anna Hazare argument, he argued that people were sovereign in India. “That is the reason why even the right to freedom of press was not absolute in this country. It was instead left to Parliament to lay down reasonable restrictions on this freedom. All institutions in our democracy are people’s institutions. Even the judiciary is accountable to the people. People have a right to know what is happening.”

“Abridge freedom”

Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for the Editor of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan, commenced his arguments, pointing out the anomaly of the court deciding to lay down guidelines which in this case would “abridge” the freedoms of individuals instead of “protecting” them or “disciplining” officials. Mr. Divan cited the ‘Visakha judgment,’ saying that in that case the court was only seeking to protect fundamental rights of citizens. But in this case the Bench was embarking on a quasi-legislative exercise as once the court framed guidelines they would become immune from judicial review. “I will have no remedy. But tomorrow, if Parliament were to adopt these guidelines, the person aggrieved will have a remedy. I can challenge them before you.”

Mr. Divan said the exercise undertaken by the court was not prudent in view of globalisation of information dissemination technology. “If the guidelines will be coercive or binding in nature, then it is covered by the legislative process.”

The CJI intervened, and said: “The deliberations on the guidelines were not a result of adversarial litigation. We are only trying to regulate the media to the extent that the rights of person in criminal cases are protected under Article 21 [Right to life and liberty] of the Constitution.”

The CJI asked Mr. Divan to address the question whether the rights of the press could be balanced to ensure administration of justice and protect the rights of the accused to ensure a free trial in a criminal case.

Arguments will continue on Wednesday.

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Citizen Anna and agent Prashant

THE TIMES OF INDIA

In fashionably liberal circles, Prashant Bhushan is an authentic modern hero, the people’s advocate who uses the killer argument to avenge the aam admi on the bloodless battlefield of the Supreme Court. Among his lawyer peers, Bhushan is somewhat disdainfully seen as an “activist who takes up causes, not cases”. Some politicians call him a “self-righteous” busybody with a penchant for the sensational storyline. Some others loathe the 55-year-old, who helped draft the Jan Lokpal Bill, as an anarchist impelled to bring down the system. To the man on the street, Bhushan is all but invisible.

But the results of his relentless war on what he calls “evil and venality” are all around. There appears to be a decided people’s clamour for the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill he wrote with former Supreme Court justice Santosh Hegde. And at the beginning of March, Bhushan effectively humbled India‘s chief political executive—the prime minister—as well as forced the highest court in the land to do his will.

With his trademark cautiousness, Bhushan admits this might be as good as it gets for a knee-jerk activist with “a passion for justice”. He acknowledges “I’ve been unwittingly catapulted into a kind of position of a hero, which I can see from the manner in which people are now wanting to interview me, as well as talk to me in the courts, congratulate me etc.”

It is safe to say Bhushan has made a career out of public interest litigation (PIL) having self-confessedly taken up “about 500 cases over 15-16 years” that deal with ‘good’ causes (environment, corruption, the Bofors case, Narmada dam). He made a career but not a fortune because he doesn’t charge for public interest cases, which he admits “take a long time, go on for a long time… more time than normal cases”. Effectively, therefore, he admits to spending just 25% of his time on paying cases, charging 5% of what other lawyers charge and earning just “enough to take care of my office expenses at any rate”.

Clearly, he is magnificently unworried about money. He lives in simple but great comfort with his former lawyer wife Deepa on one floor of his father’s house in Noida. The oldest of four children of well known lawyer and Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s law minister Shanti Bhushan, Prashant lives the dream described by American novelist Edith Wharton — the only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it. This is the starting point of the difference in Bhushan’s worldview and that of people he lumps together as “professional lawyers”. Most of them, he says severely, “are amoral, morally vacuous and they’re not bothered whether their client gets justice nor are they bothered whether their client’s cause is just or not.”

Bhushan’s fellow lawyer in the Supreme Court, Harish Salve, acknowledges the grubby and distinct reality of being a “commercial lawyer (not an activist). Sometimes, even we’re not convinced our clients are right”. Contrast that with Bhushan’s lofty refusal to “take up a case unless I feel my client is at least morally right.” America’s leading expert on the Indian legal system and London School of Economics Centennial Professor Marc Galanter says Bhushan is quite remarkable for “being so empowered.” Unlike many great—and effective—activist lawyers, notably the late William Kunstler who fought for civil liberties, black people and native Americans, “Prashant’s circumstances have given him (financial) independence, Kunstler had the imperative of making a living. I find it admirable that Prashant has grasped the opportunity”.

And how. Just months ago, he successfully challenged the Prime Minister and Home Minister’s decision to appoint PJ Thomas as head of the country’s eight-year-old premier integrity watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission. He was able to prove that the appointment of a man facing corruption charges to an anti-corruption institution was laughably inappropriate.

In mid-December, Bhushan managed to convince the Supreme Court it must monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation‘s (CBI) inquiry into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, which the lawyer argued had only benefitted the “favourites amongst the favoured”. The Court even agreed with Bhushan that the CBI had dragged its feet on investigating the mega scandal. It was arguably just the fillip needed to start nailing those alleged to be guilty. From then on, it took the CBI just six weeks to arrest former telecom minister A Raja.

Bhushan wasted little time taking aim at his next quarry in the 2G scam. On March 1, he told the Supreme Court that the CBI was behaving suspiciously by failing to investigate the direct involvement of the Tata group in the entire matter. Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly assured him the case was “progressing in the right direction. Prima facie there is no fault in its investigation. We are quite conscious that CBI must probe every aspect of the case.” Bhushan had made his point. But he is not triumphant. Possibly just a tad self-satisfied. He talks about his own “moral authority” and the fact that his “responsible and consistent” campaign against judicial corruption means judges “both respect and fear you (him)”. Despite being mild-mannered and retiring, some might find him as boastful as an Arab dictator: “Even judges today are afraid of throwing in jail someone who they know is perceived to be right by the people.”

Chiefly though, he is unyielding and as a friend describes him, “all heavy seriousness” about his role in India today. The science fiction addict who once wrote a turgid novel of the genre, is clear that he is an “agent of change, a catalyst”. The IIT Madras student who left halfway, went on to Princeton to study philosophy and economics but couldn’t stay the course, is steady as a rock about his destiny. He objects to the adjective “messiah”, saying “it can mean many things. I see myself as a person who tries to see the connections between what is happening and tries to spread the message that I feel should be spread about what is wrong with our economic policies, what is wrong with our judicial system.”

He studied law at Allahabad, doing part of the course before Princeton and taking his final exam on his return. He started early down the public interest road, inspired partly by his father’s views on justice, probity and corruption. Early on, he fought limestone quarrying in the picturesque Doon Valley. Then, there was the Bhopal gas tragedy litigation. He was Delhi president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, one of India’s oldest human rights organizations.

Bhushan is unembarrassed to be asked if activism is an indulgence for those who can afford it, chiefly people who don’t need to worry about feeding the family or putting a son through Oxford (Manav, oldest of his three sons, is studying Math there). “Activism certainly needs to be supported—by like-minded people or grants…I don’t need to seek grants because I come from a very well-to-do family”. Salve, who has faced Bhushan across the courtroom many times (“cases go up to two digits”) magnanimously says that “we need the Prashant Bhushans, we need people like him. Every system needs crackpots”. Bhushan himself describes Salve as his chief detractor but Salve insists that Bhushan is generally to be admired because “he takes every cause, good, bad or indifferent and argues it with passion.”

Salve’s words of praise may sit oddly with his deeds. In his own words Salve “drew the Supreme Court’s attention” to Bhushan’s September 2009 interview to a magazine in which he claimed “half of the last 16 Chief Justices were corrupt”. Bhushan now faces contempt of court proceedings. Salve denies animosity. “We’re all on the same side, as citizens, we’re against corruption but I think that he is sometimes out of sync with economic reality.”

This fierce romantic idealism seems to annoy Bhushan’s detractors most. Like America’s self-appointed “radical lawyer” William Kunstler, Bhushan is accused of being a “publicity seeker”. Some are suspicious of his chiming with writer Arundhati Roy to recall India Rising to right rather than jingoistic might. Some say the Jan Lokpal Bill would have been drafted with or without Bhushan. Others say the main opposition BJP would have achieved the same results on the 2G scam had Bhushan not managed courtroom success. His chief critics say he’s not really a serious lawyer at all, just a “cause-pleader”. But Salve will have none of this. “He is a good lawyer. His arguments are crisp and to the point. He doesn’t get into high philosophy and jurisprudence. He picks his cause and he bangs it hard”.

Bhushan, unemotional to the point of bloodlessness, bangs on. From his third floor office opposite the Supreme Court, he looks dreamily at the pigeons on the window sill: “There are some straws in the wind. There is reason for hope. Today you can sense a kind of arousal and excitement even among the urban middle class which one didn’t see earlier. There’s resistance everywhere against every kind of loot and degradation.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/special-report/Citizen-Anna-and-agent-Prashant/articleshow/7931100.cms

Judges under scanner

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

FROM THE TRIBUNE

1.   Justice Nirmal Yadav (Uttarakhand High Court): The CBI court in Chandigarh has adjourned the hearing to December 14 as Special Judge Darshan Singh is on leave. During the previous hearing of the Cash-at-judge’s door case, it was adjourned following the CBI’s submission that the prosecution sanction against Justice Yadav was awaited. The CBI had earlier sought permission from the Union Law Ministry and the President’s Secretariat for initiating prosecution against her.

2.   Justice Soumitra Sen (Kolkata High Court): He has been held guilty by the inquiry committee of “misconduct” tantamount to “misbehaviour” warranting his removal as a judge by impeachment. The Rajya Sabha Secretary-General has asked him to file a reply to the inquiry report by December 9.

3.   Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran (Sikkim High Court): The Rajya Sabha Chairman has reconstituted the three-member inquiry committee with Justice Aftab Alam of the Supreme Court as its head. He replaces Justice V.S. Sirpurkar who had recused himself from hearing the case against the backdrop of questions raised on his neutrality.

4.   Ghaziabad PF scam: As many as 26 judges are involved. Ashutosh Asthana, the key accused, died mysteriously in prison. The Supreme Court has refused to shift the case to Delhi.

5.   Former CJIs: After former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan alleged that eight of 16 former Chief Justices of India were corrupt, his advocate son, Prashant Bhushan, filed another affidavit in the Supreme Court listing alleged instances of corruption against six of them – Justice Ranganath Misra, Justice K.N. Singh, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Justice M.M. Punchi, Justice A.S. Anand and Justice Y.K. Sabharwal. Mr Prashant Bhushan is now facing a contempt case in the apex court.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20101203/edit.htm#6

Bar chorus for court clean-up

SATYA PRAKASH IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

A day after the Supreme Court slammed the Allahabad High Court for some of its “incorrigible” judges passing orders on “extraneous considerations”, bar leaders on Saturday said it was time to stem the rot. Former law minister Shanti Bhushan, who recently filed an affidavit in the apex court saying eight former chief justices of India were definitely corrupt, said, “I have been saying this for years. Now even the Supreme Court has said it.

“The real problem is that there are hardly any crusaders in the judiciary. Even honest judges try to defend the corrupt ones because they feel it’s one judicial family,” Bhushan said, hailing justice Markandey Katju as a crusader for having asked the Allahabad HC chief justice to clean his house by transferring the “incorrigible” judges.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said: “The SC’s comments point to a problem that exists in the judiciary. But Justice Katju can only protest…He has not provided any solution.”

Asked if transfer of “uncle judges” would solve the problem, former Delhi Bar Council chairman KC Miittal said,  “There has to be a comprehensive, transparent transfer policy. In any case it can only be a temporary solution.”

Dhavan, who represents Tehelka in a contempt case, wondered why the magazine and advocate Prashant Bhushan should be hauled up for contempt when the SC itself was making such comments.

Maintaining that poor bar leadership has compounded the problem, Miittal said the Bar Council of India should come out with stringent norms to check “uncle judges” syndrome.

Former BCI chairman VC Mishra said: “The evil pointed out by the SC is not limited to the Allahabad HC. It is there in all other HCs as well.”

He, however, said transferring a dishonest judge from one HC to another was not the real solution. “No judge should join a high court where he had been practising as a lawyer.”

Lucknow-based Oudh Bar Association president RS Pande said the real problem was the secret appointment process. “It should be made more transparent and… after thoroughly checking the background of the candidates,” Pande said.

BCI chairman Gopal Subramanium said: “We will certainly take it up in our next meeting.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Bar-chorus-for-court-clean-up/Article1-631800.aspx

Willing to go to jail, won’t say sorry: Shanti Bhushan

New Delhi, Nov 10 (IANS) Former law minister Shanti Bhushan Wednesday told the Supreme Court that he and his lawyer son Prashant Bhushan would prefer to go to jail instead of tendering an apology for pointing to corruption in the judiciary. Bhushan told this to the court after he and his son were asked if they were willing to offer an apology.

The former law minister told the apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice H.L. Dattu that he was speaking for himself and his son Prashant Bhushan.  The senior Bhushan said this when he was asked by the court whom he was speaking for. He bacame a party to the contempt case by filing an affidavit saying that of 16 chief justices’ of India, eight were ‘definitely corrupt’, six were ‘definitely honest’ and for two of them ‘a definite opinion cannot be expressed.’ The court is hearing a contempt petition against the senior counsel Prashant Bhushan and managing editor of Tehelka magazine, Tarun Tejpal.

The contempt proceedings were initiated after Prashant Bhushan in an interview to Tehelka levelled allegation of corruption against the sitting judges of the apex court. Prashant Bhushan in his interview had alleged that Justice S.H. Kapadia (now the Chief Justice of India) who had the shares in Sterlite company decided a mining lease case in favour of the company.

The court took serious objection to the senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan saying ‘the fact that there is corruption in judiciary is not in doubt’.  Reframing his statement, Dhawan said that former chief justice S.P. Barucha had said that 20 percent of judges in the country were corrupt. To this, Justice Kabir said ‘he did not say that. It was other way round’ meaning that Justice Barucha had said that 80 percent of judges were honest. That the remaining 20 percent were corrupt was an inference drawn by the people, he said.

Justice Kabir said that you can say there is ‘a little doubt’ that there is corruption in judiciary.  Appearing for Tejpal, Dhawan said that the concern expressed in the Tehelka magazine were ‘bonafide’ and ‘genuine’.  He said that question is if there were genuine and bonafide concerns about the state of affairs in judiciary then how they could be dealt with.  He questioned the summery procedure of initiating the contempt proceedings against the alleged contemnor. He said that there was no mechanism by which genuine grievances or concerns about the judicial functioning could be addressed.

He told the court that it was dealing with a case of ‘constructive contempt’. The question is was it a malafide and mischievous exercise of editorial powers.

A challenge before the nation

V.R. Krishna Iyer in  THE HINDU

Have some Chief Justices of the Supreme Court indeed been delinquent, or is Shanti Bhushan resorting to bravado? The truth should come out.

Shanti Bhushan is a distinguished Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court. The former Union Law Minister has been a public-spirited counsel of corrective strategy. Now he has, in a stroke of seemingly egregious expression of national conscience, raised a historic, heuristic challenge. He has questioned the integrity of the top brethren of the highest judiciary of the Republic, hurling charges of corruption against eight of 16 Chief Justices of the past. He has defiantly desiderated them in a militant manner. Take action for contempt of court against me, if you dare, he seems to say. And the media have publicised Mr. Bhushan’s action, which sounds much like bravado.

Now it is left to the nation to move on this matter of paramount importance. This is an astonishing event — the rarest of the rare kind. If India is not a coward, if its swaraj is not merely soft and formal but firm and phenomenal, an appropriately high-level investigation, with consequential follow-up action that is punitive and reformatory, is imperative. This is no time to hesitate or involve in an exchange of rhetoric. Nor is this the time for a guarded and diplomatic reaction. This is unprecedented: a succession of Chief Justices have been publicly accused by a Senior Advocate of standing, risking his career.

Take action or face collapse. This is not a matter for ordinary public interest litigation. Until now, in no democracy would such an event have happened. There is not a moment now to relax or show amoral indifference or inaction. Should India keep quiet and go into slumber in the face of Operation Bhushan Bravo now, the world will judge this democracy as a bundle of brave words that, when it comes to action, is a flop show. This is not an hour to relax or retreat from duty. This is an open offensive against the highest court. The court, with vast powers of adjudication of justice and writ jurisdiction, has been put in the dock, so to say. To remain deaf or dumb to this situation will be a shock and a shame. When the judicial system suffers seppuku, we become a society sans justice.

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

This is a crisis beyond Mr. Shanti Bhushan and Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia themselves. The extraordinarily epic charge demands a trial. How can the courts close its eyes and pretend to be asleep? Wake up and walk with your head high, and create a tribunal as unique as the situation. To fail here will put the nation’s reputation under grave suspicion.

The judiciary is constitutionally empowered to be critical, to quash and be a corrective. It could issue creative writs or directives binding the functional process of the Executive and the Legislature. What about the judges if they are not efficient, competent and capable, and with a vision and mission to transform the social dimension of any policy or action that is violative of suprema lex? In the United States, Chief Justice Earl Warren produced a racial revolution that U.S. President Eisenhower could not achieve. In the Commonwealth, visionary judges have shown their ability to transmute society through judicial activism.

Even in India, public interest litigation has revolutionary potential if our ‘robed brethren’ are really socialist and secular. They do not always possess in plenary fashion such a dimension in terms of perception or vision. On the contrary, some of them often tend to yield to class bias and political pressure by multinational corporations, or class-oriented prejudices. Indeed, some of them seem to be slowly succumbing to corruption by powerful vested interests. This is a grave danger.

Yet, the controversy raised by Mr. Shanti Bhushan poses a serious peril before this Republic’s crimson future. Our tryst with destiny, articulated in the historic address by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, cannot be implemented since final adjudicatory powers under Article 141 and 144 lie with the highest court. To remain inert and indifferent to the attack is to be amoral and unethical to constitutional mandates. If this Republic is a live constitutional instrumentality, it has received stab wounds on its chest. Our Supreme Court Judges do have a moral stature.

If Parliament has a sense of shame, now is the time to act: it cannot wait till tomorrow. Mr. Shanti Bhushan has dared the court. Of course, he will get an opportunity and has an obligation to the nation to prove the truth of his charges. Not to act on the matter will amount to cowardice, timidity, bankruptcy, and an unworthy submission to his audacious invasion on the credibility of India’s highest moral authority, the Supreme Court.

Parliament must act. Let the Prime Minister move a resolution asking the two Houses to meet and pass a motion appointing the highest-ever quasi-judicial body to sit and inquire into any judicatural retreat from their oath of office. This will involve issues of grave importance. It is no longer Bhushan vs. the Supreme Court. It is the people’s right to have a paramount Supreme Court of justice. This nation is greater than Mr. Shanti Bhushan and it cannot have a moral backbone if these charges are not publicly enquired into and consequent changes are made — so that the Supreme Court may shine supreme.

Any Commission or Tribunal that is created should not be confined to the charges in its ambit of enquiry. The public must be able to bring any other charges against the judges of the highest court. This will be a historic, epic tribunal to try its own judges without fear or favour and cleanse the system of any bad elements. Frame a performance prescription, punish any guilty judges.

Or if Mr. Shanti Bhushan fails in his bid, let him face the consequences of his phenomenal folly. There should be no secrecy but only transparency, no contempt proceedings to hide delinquent conduct. This will be an epic battle more important than the making of the Constitution — a national hearing by a superlative tribunal. I suggest the Chief Justices of all the High Courts plus the Speaker and the Chairpersons of the two Houses sitting as a body assisted by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. During the course of these proceedings, ad hoc judges may be appointed to hear cases. The marathon process will involve sittings on three days a week. The other four days could be set apart for their regular judicial work. Such a tribunal will be unique — a brave judicial odyssey. For, never has there been such a spiritual or civil challenge to a nation’s supreme body.

Let us not be afraid of doing the right thing at the right time. Anybody who comes up with charges must suffer punishment if these turn out to be unproven. Nobody can escape after levelling allegations frivolously, nocently, malignantly and mendaciously. Mr. Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan will either go down in history as tremendous challengers of evil or run afoul of the law for having raised frivolous charges. Justice shall be done to the judges, and equally to those who have levelled unproven charges. Those who seek to defile the system through blackmail will be punished, unless they are able to back up and prove the charges.

The collegium

Meanwhile, there is one more item of great relevance and importance to be considered by Parliament. This involves the collegium created by a judgment of the Supreme Court to make appointments and recommend the transfer of judges of the higher courts. This instrumentality is the creature of a judgment with no foundation in the Constitution. It constitutes an usurpation of the powers of the Executive with no guidelines whatsoever. It has played havoc and deserves to be demolished by parliamentary correction, by means of an amendment to the law. The collegium is answerable to none, and acts without transparency. Instead of waiting for a larger bench to eliminate it, a constitutional provision must extinguish this instrument.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/09/21/stories/2010092163131300.htm

Eight chief justices were corrupt: Ex-law minister

DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Former law minister Shanti Bhushan on Thursday created a sensation in the Supreme Court when he moved an application accusing eight former Chief Justices of India of “corruption”, and dared the court to send him to jail for committing “contempt of court”.

The eight allegedly corrupt CJIs feature among a list of 16 prepared by Bhushan—comprising Justices Ranganath Mishra, K N Singh, M H Kania, L M Sharma, M N Venkatachalliah, A M Ahmadi, J S Verma, M M Punchhi, A S Anand, S P Bharucha, B N Kirpal, G B Patnaik, Rajendra Babu, R C Lahoti, V N Khare and Y K Sabharwal. Terming eight among the list as “definitely corrupt”, Bhushan put their names in a sealed cover and submitted it to the Supreme Court and virtually dared it to open it and read out the contents.

He said of the 16 on his list, “six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt”. The veteran lawyer, who became famous by successfully arguing for setting aside the election of Indira Gandhi in 1975, triggering a chain of events leading to imposition of Emergency, resorted to the dramatic action in solidarity with his son, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is facing contempt charges for accusing current CJI S H Kapadia and his predecessors of misconduct.

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

“Make me a party along with Prashant Bhushan,” requested Bhushan Sr, who was law minister in the post-Emergency Morarji Desai cabinet, as he challenged the SC to send him to jail for contempt. Bhushan’s challenge to the SC can put the apex court in a bind. It may be constrained not to ignore the provocation lest it start a trend. The option of punishing the Bhushans, however, carries the risk of putting the father-son duo on a pedestal, and training the spotlight on their allegations when the issue of judicial corruption finds ready resonance with an expanding constituency. Of all the protests against alleged judicial corruption, the Bhushans’s is easily the most breathtaking, and will play well with the gallery.

Bhushan sought to raise for judiciary the cost of any punishment to him, by saying that he was ready to face the consequences. “The applicant will consider it a great honour to spend time in jail for making an effort to get for the people of India an honest and clean judiciary,” he said.In his application, the former law minister spoke of both the growing corruption in judiciary as well as the tendency to sweep it under the carpet in the name of protecting judiciary’s reputation. A defiant Bhushan claimed that two former CJIs were among the sources of his information on corruption among their peers. “In fact, two former CJIs had personally told the applicant while they were in office that their immediate predecessor and immediate successor were corrupt judges. The names of these four CJIs are included in the list of corrupt CJIs,” Bhushan said. “Unless the level of corruption in the judiciary is exposed and brought in the public domain, the institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate the evil,” he added.

“It is a common perception that whenever such efforts are made by anyone, the judiciary tries to target him by the use of the power to contempt. It is the reputation of the judge which is his shield against any malicious and false allegations against him. He does not need the power of contempt to protect his reputation and credibility,” Bhushan further said.

Proceedings against Prashant were initiated on a petition filed by amicus curiae Harish Salve accusing the former of making contemptuous remarks against CJI S H Kapadia and former CJIs. Besides, Bhushan Jr had also told a web newspaper that half of the last 16 former CJIs were corrupt. His father, Shanti Bhushan said, “Since the applicant (Shanti Bhushan) is publicly stating that out of the last 16 CJIs, eight of them were definitely corrupt, he also needs to be added as a respondent to this contempt petition so that he is also suitably punished for this contempt.” Corruption in judiciary had taken firm root in the last two to three decades, Bhushan said while deploring persistent attempts to cover up in the belief that such charges might tarnish the image of the judiciary. Assailing the Supreme Court’s decision in 1991 in the Justice Veeraswamy case restraining probe agencies from registering FIR against any judge without the permission of the CJI, Bhushan said this had resulted in total immunity to corrupt judges and caused judicial corruption to increase by leaps and bounds.

Read more: Eight chief justices were corrupt: Ex-law minister – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Eight-chief-justices-were-corrupt-Ex-law-minister/articleshow/6568723.cms#ixzz0zkIEOMsj