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HC Rules: Society's Faith In Judiciary Should Not Be Shaken

The Bombay High Court in the case of Archana Deepak Jatkar v. State of Maharashtra in Anticipatory Bail Application No. 591 of 2021 decided on March 3, 2021 expressed shock that the judges, who are the harbingers of Justice, resort to corrupt practices and ruled that the Society's faith in Judiciary should not be shaken else the foundation of the Rule of Law shall be wrecked.

It is a matter of grave concern that our country's rank has slipped six places to 86th among 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2020 issued recently by Transparency International. Corruption is rampant in our country in all spheres - Public Administration, State & Central Revenue Departments, Police, Public Education, Banking and with due respect Judiciary is no exception. According to Transparency International, corruption in Judiciary in India is attributable to factors such as delays in the disposal of cases, shortage of judges and complex procedures, all of which are exacerbated by a preponderance of new laws.

The brief facts of the case are that the applicant was Judicial Magistrate First Class, Wadgaon Maval Court. It is alleged that she demanded bribe from the informant and her associate was caught accepting the said bribe. She is being prosecuted under sections 12 and 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and had sought bail. A complaint was lodged with the Anti-Corruption Bureau Pune by a milk vendor that a lady had approached him for getting favour in a criminal case lodged by Amul against him in Wadagaon Maval Court. She demanded Rs. 5 lacs for removing the papers & managing the judge which was finally negotiated at Rs. 3 lacs.

The police recorded the phone calls of the lady wherein the lady purportedly talked to the Applicant. After that conversation, Smt. Mhatre alias Shubhavari Gaikwad told him to bring money. On 14/01/2021, the informant went to the office of Anti-Corruption Bureau with Rs.50,000/- and on signal from the informant Smt. Shubhavari Gaikwad was arrested by the police with the currency notes and she acknowledged that she had accepted the money on behalf of the Applicant. The bail application of the applicant was rejected by the Session Court and she approached the High Court for grant of anticipatory bail.

On behalf of the applicant it was pleaded that she was staying alone in Pune with her 11 month old baby as her husband is employed in Mumbai and she came in contact with Shubhavari Gaikwad as she needed somebody to look after her baby, when she attended her duties in Courts. It was contended that the Applicant trusted her and started depending on her and she sought her help for arranging a maid to look after her baby and the accused Shubhavari took advantage of their close acquaintance and the Applicant�s dependence on her.

It was argued that the Applicant was blissfully unaware of Shubhhavari�s activities of demanding money and she had not demanded any bribe and there was nothing incriminating in the conversation between her and Gaikwad with reference to the informant�s case which was before the Applicant.

The Court did not approve of the version of the applicant and observed that the telephonic conversation, prima- faice, does indicate the Applicant�s involvement in the case. Moreover, there was prosecution investigation revealing 147 telephonic calls exchanged between the Applicant and Gaikwad which strongly indicate Applicant�s involvement in the offence. The Court rejected the bail application and held thus:
Therefore considering the gravity of offence, order of anticipatory bail cannot be passed in her favour. Her custodial interrogation is also necessary to find out the exact nature of relation between both the accused and as to whether in any other case these two have acted similarly.

The Court expressed concern & dismay at a responsible judicial officer being involved in corruption and observed thus:

15.The Applicant was occupying a very responsible position. Considering the seriousness of allegations against her, it is necessary that the investigation is carried out thoroughly. Society�s faith in judicial system should not be shaken by such instances. The investigating agency needs to go deep in the matter. No case for anticipatory bail is made out. The application is rejected.
16. However, on humanitarian grounds plight of the Applicant�s innocent baby needs to be addressed. In the eventuality of the Applicant�s arrest, the investigating agency shall not deny the Applicant access to her child. All the necessary facilities should be provided to the child when the child is with the Applicant.
17. At this stage, the learned counsel for the Applicant prays for stay of this order for a period of four weeks. Considering the gravity of offence and need of custodial interrogation, the prayer is refused.
We are too small a fry to talk of rampant corruption in all levels of our Judiciary although retired judges of the Apex court have raised their voice candidly & undauntingly on the issue. However, it is apt time to ponder over the reasons for growth of corruption in Judiciary.

I am reminded of famous quote by U S President; Joe Biden that Corruption is a Cancer that eats away at a Citizen's Faith in Democracy, Diminishes the Instinct for Innovation and Creativity. It is undisputed that Corruption shakes the very foundation of democracy and the Rule of Law and also poses a threat to constitutional governance. However, the unfettered power given to Judiciary is being misused and the sanctity of the temple of Justice is being eroded. Money power has made the Rule of Law a distant dream.

The main cause of Corruption in Indian Judicial System is its Inaccessibility. The judicial process is not only expensive but time & energy consuming. The Judicial system takes a very long time, sometimes generations for redressal through long drawn battle in Courts. It is concerning that more than 3 crore cases are pending in different courts so much so that most of the prisoners are under trials, waiting eagerly for the outcome of their case.

The Judiciary is all powerful and people cannot dare criticize the Judiciary for fear of Contempt of the Courts Act. There is lack of Transparency in the judicial system and Right to Information (RTI) Act does not help in establishing accountability of the Judiciary. It cannot be refuted that degradation & erosion of morality, honesty and ethical values is the root cause of Corruption. The acute willingness and the family pressure to get Bail for their near & dear results automatically in yielding to money power.

The only way out to contain corruption is to promote & implement faceless hearing and use of technology so that discretions are eliminated & limited. Increased usage & implementation of Alternative Dispute Redressal System will not only unclog the judicial system but contain corruption.

With the strict view & stern action taken by the High Court in the aforesaid case, it is imperative that the Judiciary would desist from corrupt practices and follow the principles of ' Satyamev Jayate'- Truth alone Triumphs as enshrined in the national motto of our country.

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Ph no: 8279945021, Email: [email protected]

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