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Corruption In Indian Legal System

Corruption is considered as a major evil in Indian society. It is the issues which effects the economy of our country. It is one of the reasons why black money is so prevalent in our country. Corruption not only affected the economic condition but it also played a vital role in affecting the development of the country. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 62% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done.[1]

In 2008, another report showed that about 50% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or using contacts to get services performed by public offices,[2] however, in 2019 their Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the country 80th place out of 180, reflecting steady decline in perception of corruption among people.[3]

Corruption is also seen in Indian legal system. Starting from filing a case to the decision on the case corruption has its deep routes at every stage. The report of Transparency International�s Global Corruption Barometer 2013 says that 45 percent of surveyed households in India considered judiciary to be corrupt or extremely corrupt and 36 percent of households who had contact with the judiciary in 2012 reported to have paid a bribe.[4]

Because of corruption people lost their faith in the system which provides justice. According to the latest data (November 2019) 59,867 cases are pending in Supreme court, 44.75 lakh cases in high courts and at the district and subordinate level 3.14 crore cases are pending.

Corruption in the judiciary has increased with bribes being demanded to get the next hearing date of choice and to attain a copy of the order.[5]The total amount of bribe estimated to have been paid in one year across India is Rs 534 crore, says CMS (India corruption study, 2018)

An estimate (data collection from courts across 13 states) reveals that Rs 220 crore was paid to get a suitable date for a hearing and Rs 314 was paid as a bribe to attain a copy of the order.[6] Experts from the judicial field say one of the main reasons for corruption in the judiciary is huge pendency of cases in Indian courts.[7]

Corruption in Indian legal system includes all phases of wrong influence which may impartially harm the legal system. The wrong influencers in this system may be lawyers, administrative staff etc. Corruption is not only a matter of relations between the judges and court users but also in internal judiciary for example a judge of high court can call the judge of sub ordinate court and can influence him/her not only this the judges of the same court can also influence each other for giving the decision in favour of a particular party. However, it is not necessary that the gain should be in the form of material even it may be in the form of professional favour, political favour or sexual favour.

Corruption has engulfed judiciary at all levels and everyone started accepting this fact now litigants has cleared it in their minds that every time they visit the court, they have to pay bribery even for the smallest favour. Corruption has been a part of our society since a very long time but it is spreading with a very high speed in legal system. A person going to the police station for filing a FIR is also expected to pay some amount for filing the report.

Some major reasons of corruption in this field is delay of justice due to lack of judicial officers in our country, poor implementation of laws i.e. laws related to corruption are not very strict and strict actions are not taken against this crime, people have no redressal mechanism excepting paying bribes. It is also known that there is no mechanism to check the working of legislature, ministers and bureaucrats for their actions which is a major reason of continuous spread of corruption. Judges have no fear their biased and partial acts and there is no answerability for their decisions such discretionary power of judges leads to increase in corruption in our country.

In this matter the judges say that they are harassed due to over work and they also think that they are under paid. There are petty cases and, in some cases, counsels are interest ed in delay rather than judgement.

A senior session judge once stated that how can a judge, after a morning of long list of bails, hear witnesses, record their evidence in another fifty odd cases. Innocent people are also responsible for increasing corruption as they are always interested in paying bribery to get the decisions in their favour. Delay in justice can also help the criminal to get sufficient time to manipulate the witnesses and to destroy the evidences by giving bribe to the witnesses.

Delay in justice without any justified reason disturbs the whole functions of judiciary and further leads to the formation of injustice. The ineffective actions, slow trials, improper investigation and outdated laws, lack of implementation of laws and complex procedure of courts are the major reason of increasing corruption in Indian legal system.

Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for personal gain.[8] In the presence of corruption in Indian legal system the citizen neither afford their democratic right of equal access to courts and nor do the court treat them equally. The merits of cases and applicable laws are not paramount of corrupt judges.[9]

Indian corruption study, 2005, Volume 1 (Eleven public services) Corruption in Judiciary, by Centre for Media Studies, made a scientific study of the possibility of corruption at different levels in judicial hierarchy which rated that more than 33% of the people bribed judiciary to the extent of Rs. 3817 crores in just one year.[10] In the year of 2000 a Chief Justice of India was accused of using his position to force the lower judiciary to hold in favour of his wife and mother-in-law in a case. In the year of 2002-2003 case like sex for acquittal and cash for job come to notice.

Causes for corruption in Indian legal system

There is a huge number of cases pending in Indian courts. The number of cases pending in the country is in millions and it can take 20 years for a decision.

Inaccessibility: judicial system has become costly, delaying and out of the access of poor people and common citizens of the country. Public is losing their trust in judiciary due to delayed results of cases, partial and biased decisions. The court�s proceeding is out of understanding of laymen due to which dishonest advocates take advantage of laymen and make money from them.

Misuse of power: judges offer a exchange for personal gain in some cases. In Rajasthan, there were reports of a judge who offered judicial favour in exchange for sexual favours from a litigant. Some of these instances have been reported by the media, but no action has resulted.[11]

A difficult impeachment process: FIR cannot be lodged against a judge and criminal investigation cannot be initiated without prior consent of the CJI. Appointed judge of the high court and supreme court cannot be removed from his office expect by complicated impeachment process. In the case of 1990s, Justice V Ramaswami, when the Congress was in power, a motion seeking to impeach Justice V Ramaswami could not be passed by parliament as Congress members of parliament abstained from voting. There have been no other attempts at impeachment in India.[12]

Article 124(4) of the constitution of India makes it clear that a judge of the Supreme Court cannot be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.[13] Proceeding for impeachment of a judge of the Supreme Court are of judicial nature. Abstention from voting in the House on the motion of impeachment against a judge of the Supreme Court cannot be deemed to be vote in support of the motion.[14]

Delay of justice: Delay in justice can also help the criminal to get sufficient time to manipulate the witnesses and to destroy the evidences by giving bribe to the witnesses. Delay in justice without any justified reason disturbs the whole functions of judiciary and further leads to the formation of injustice.

Why people pay bribes

Bribery is common in the judicial system. Transparency International Report 2012 said that the most common reason for giving bribe in India in general is to speed things up.[15]
The large amount of money becomes the need for the disposal of the case without any certainty of success. Court process is too expensive, even it is out of the access of the poor and depressed people. Judiciary adjudicates the cases against the state and central government which are filed by the aggrieved people of India. The judicial system of India now a days become a subject of criticism due to interruption in the policy of government beyond its jurisdiction. This creativity of judiciary is called judicial activism.[16]

In India, the number of judges is approximately 13 or 14 judges per one million people in India[17]. The Supreme Court in All India Judges' Association and others v. Union of India and others[18], directed the government to increase the number of judges from the existing 10.5 judges per million to 50 judges per million. But this directive has not yet been fully implemented due to a lack of infrastructure, including the number of judges and facilities of judges to function, as well as a lack of cooperation and funding from provincial government.[19] The large number of pending cases is suffocating the system which in turn promotes corrupt practices.[20]

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) states that the judiciary, lacking governmental support to address the backlog of cases, is incapable of delivering justice.[21] The lack of awareness of the people of India also makes judiciary compel to take action against the arbitrary decisions of the governmental authorities. As the people of India are still having regards towards the judiciary in spite shortage of the courts and the sheer number of judges.

There is a high number of vacancies in the judiciary. According to Indian Currents, only 14,295 of 17,945 judge positions are occupied[22]. India Today said that nearly 32 percent of judge positions are vacant in the High Court.[23]

The amounting arrears of cases, increasing population, less awareness of public of India about their legal rights have also been the major causes of failure of justice. Judiciary therefore should be independent, transparent and accountable. If there would be any mechanism to check the delay in disposal of the cases, it will certainly increase the reputation and respect of the judiciary in the eye of the classes of India. Judiciary should be enthusiasm to provide speedy justice to the poor and depressed people of India. Even the judiciary is the safeguard of the fundamental rights of the people of India.

Some cases of corruption in Indian legal system
Corruption has decayed the whole system of governance in India. No organ is relinquished from this menace and the legal system is no exception to it.

In 1949: Justice Sinha was found of "guilty of improper exercise of judicial functions, the cumulative effect of which was to lower the dignity of his office and undermine the confidence of the public in the administration of justice."[24]

In 1995: A.M. Bhattacharjee, the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court was forced to resign in 1995 after it was found that he had received Rs.70 lakh[25] as book advance from a publishing firm known to have links with the underworld.[26]

In 2000 Justice A.S. Anand:

  1. He was accused of using his position to get the subordinate judiciary to rule in favour of his wife and mother-in-law in a suit that had been barred by limitation for two decades.
  2. Supreme Court, while he was Chief Justice of India, directed a CBI probe after a dispute arose over his age in 2000. The investigation report was not made public. This arose due to scan copy published in Ram Jethmalani's Big Egos, small men.[27]
Three Judges Mysore Sex Scandal: November 3, 2002, three judges of the Karnataka High Court, along with two women advocates, allegedly got involved in a brawl with a woman guest at a resort. The police arrived but reportedly didn't take action. Judges are N.S. Veerabhadraiah, V. Gopalagowda & Chandrashekaraiah Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court: He was charged with the allegations of misappropriation of large sums of money, which he had received in his capacity as Receiver appointed by the High Court of Calcutta. He also misappropriated the facts relating to the investigation.

Justice Nirmal Yadav of Uttarakhand High Court (former judge Punjab and Haryana High Court): Accused in the Rs 15Lakh cash-at-door-scam Provident fund scam: one of the biggest judicial scams in the history. More than 15 Judges of Ghaziabad court and also few of them from High Court are charged with embezzlement of more than Rs. 7 crores.

Justice Mehtab Singh Gill: He figures in the tapes released by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in June 2009. Accused to taking payments for fixing judgments.[28] These are only some of the reported cases of corruption in judiciary, many of them still goes unreported. The main reason for this is the sword of contempt, through which judiciary has got unbridled authority without any accountability towards it.

Legislative Efforts to Combat Corruption in Indian legal system

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (POCA): the main nudge is to prohibit public servants from accepting illegal appeasement in the discharge of their official functions. Bribe givers and intermediaries can also be held liable POCA for giving bribes to public officials. Prosecution under POCA requires prior approval of high authorities which severely limits its usefulness particularly where there is collusive activity within government branches.[29]

Right to information act, 2005: it represents one of the country�s most critical achievements in the fight against corruption. The Right to Information Act, may be a best tool for an accountable and transparent judiciary by checking the power. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" which is required to reply within 30 days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize its records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information for easy citizen access. This act provides citizens with a mechanism to control public spending. Many anti-corruption activists have been using the RTI to expose corruption.

Restatement of Values of Judicial Life: Code of Conduct:[30]

Some of codes that must be followed judges are:[31]
  • Judges should not conduct election to any office of club, society or other associations
  • A judge should not hear and decide a matter in which a member of his family, a close relation or a friend is concerned.
  • A judge should not speculate in shares, stocks or the like.

Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968: The object of this Act is to regulate the procedure for the investigation and proof of the misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court.[32] Section 3 of the Judges Act is relevant for this purpose. It provides procedure for investigation into misbehaviour or incapacity of judge by Committee.

98th Constitution Amendment Bill: National Judicial Commission: The Commission would make recommendation for appointment of judges in higher judiciary and transfer of High Courts judge, and thus, provide an institutionalized mechanism for appointment and transfer of judges in higher judiciary.

The recommendation made by the Commission for appointment and transfer of judges in higher judiciary would be binding on the President, and this would reduce chances of friction between the executive and the Commission. This Commission would draw a code of ethics for judges in higher judiciary. It would be empowered to conduct inquiries in case of misconduct and deviant behaviour of a judge, either on the basis of complaints made. This Commission would help ushering in judicial accountability.[33]

Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010: it tries to lay down enforceable standards of conduct for judges. It also requires judges to declare details of their and their family members' assets and liabilities.[34] This Bill creates mechanisms to allow any person to complain against judges on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity.

Some of the suggested solutions to combat corruption

  • Technology: A review of how court records are handled and the introduction of modern tracking methods can eliminate much of petty corruption existing in lower courts.
  • Internet can explain basic law to laymen.
  • Court files can be computerized.
  • Video recordings of court proceedings should be maintained.
  • Increase in number of Mediation courts for dispute redressal: This will provide alternative method to dispute redressal to lighten burden on courts.
  • Increase number of judicial officers and number of fast track courts.[35]
  • Create a vigilance cell for redressal of public grievances.
  • Making judiciary accountable: Judges must be subject to judicial review
  • Judges must follow a code of conduct.
  • Bar associations must act against corrupt members.
  • A public body must keep an eye on the judicial system.[36]
  • An Indian judicial service must be created.
  • The proposed National Judicial Commission should have powers to fire judges.[37]
  • Judges should declare their assets and those of their family.[38]
  1. India Corruption Study 2005: To Improve Governance: Volume I � Key Highlights New Delhi" (PDF). Transparency International India. 30 June 2005.
  2. India Corruption Study � 2008" (PDF). Transparency International. 2008.
  3. Corruption Perception Index 2019". Retrieved 23 January2020.
  5. FP_Source=FP_Hi_DT_TS_Wgt_1405511&FP_Medium=FP_Hi_Topstories_149874
  10. J.S. Verma, New Dimension of Justice, (2000)
  12. Corruption in the Indian Judiciary, [Access on 18 Jan 2011 at 5:09PM]
  15. Lily Thomas v. Speaker, Lok Sabha (1993) 4 SCC 23.
  16. Transparency International Report 2011, 2012
  17. Preeti Anand, Challenge to the Judiciary in the 21st Century. All India Reporter, (2011) Vol. 98: Part 1169
  18. Outlook 9 July 2012
  19. 1992 AIR 165; 1991 SCR Supl. (2) 206
  20. See Report of AHRC 21 Jan. 2013 available at India: Independence of and corruption within the judicial system, including the scale of corruption at different levels (2009-April 2013),
  21. Indian Currents, A Weekly News Magazine, New Delhi, 10th March 2013.
  22. 5 India: Independence of and corruption within the judicial system, including the scale of corruption at different levels (2009-April 2013),
  23. Outlook 9th July 2012
  24. India Today, Magazine 29 Aug. 2011
  28. Supra 24.
  29. 2 Political Corruption
  30. Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988
  32. Restatement of Values of Judicial Life (Adopted by Full Bench of Supreme Court on May 7, 1997). _jud_life.pdf
  33. Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
  34. 98th Constitution Amendment Bill.

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