Judiciary in Questioning?

Judiciary in Questioning?

Justice Mehtab Singh Gill is a honoured Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In 2002 when the infamous Punjab Public Service Commission Recruitment scam came into limelight and the Punjab Vigilance Bureau caught hold of stacks of money, going into crores from the Banks lockers of Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu alias Ravi Sidhu, a former journalist and the then Chairman of the PPSC, of the many startling facts that came out in the open was that Justice Gill was also a beneficiary of the free-job boom where one of his relatives was wrongly provided job in Punjab civil service. He was not alone. There were also Justice Amarbir Singh Gill and M L Singhal to give him company.

These sad news had pained the then Chief Justice of the High Court, B L Saharya so much that he had got a detailed and discreet in-house enqiuiry conducted. While his enquiry proved the complicity of the above three Judges, it also showed him that Justice Mehtab Singh had the habit of "flaunting his official position" and "tendency to interfere in matters of local administration" and much more seriously "in judicial matters too." He sent a detailed report regarding the three Judges to the then Chief Justice of India, B N Kirpal.

The result was that J Amarbir Singh was asked to proceed on leave as he had only a few days of service left, while J Mehtab Singh got a reprimand and J Singhal was absolved. Thus, there was hardly any substantial action against any of the Judges.

Again, when the Forest Hill case came in light in Punjab, names of a few Judges of the High Court came to have taken favour from the owner of the Hill Reorts which was totally illegal and had been constructed by giving a sidekick to all kinds of rules and regulations. Yet, while action was taken against a few administrative and forest officers, the Judges got completely scot-free.

When Rs. 15 lakh got delivered at the doorsteps of Justice Nirmal Kaur which supposedly was for another High Court Judge Justice Nirmal Yadav, much hue and cry was made. The case finally got transferred to the CBI. As per the reports published by the HT (07/06/2009) , while the CBI sent a report to the Union government to grant prosecution sanction against the High court Judge, having enough evidence against her, the Union government has turned down the request saying that the evidence was insufficient. For all that it seems the case will also peter down and will eventuallu=y meet its end. Thus Justice Nirmal Yadav will remain safely ensconced on her chair of Justice.

Now, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau has come up with taped conversations in which names of a few High Court Judges has popped up in some highly objectionable contexts on a regular basis. The phone tapping confirms existence of all kinds of malpractices in the lower and higher judiciary in Punjab which would have been sufficient enough to indict and charge-0sheet any other person than a mighty Judge of a High Court. J Mehtab Singh `s name features here once again.

Ironically the matter has already got the notice of the Chief Justice of India. All that is recommended as an action-taking attempt is to transfer Justice Mehtab Singh. That is way back in Mid 2008. The transfer file gets struck in the Law ministry and J Mehtab Singh still remains the Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The purpose of describing these incidents is not to single out a few persons. The purpose is to show the real situation of the Judiciary today and how much revamping and cleansing it needs. It is a fact that Judiciary today is under attack. But much of the discredit for this must vest with the Judiciary itself. In all these cases and in many other cases like the PF scam case of Ghaziabad or the Justice Sen case of the Calcutta High Court where J Sen refused to oblige the suggestions of even the CJI, a signal is going around that the Supreme Court is proving highly ineffective in dealing with the corruption cases of the High court Judges. It is being seen that each one of those Judges against whom there are ample proof of corrupt practices are firmly placed in their seats and no punitive/ legal or even administrative action is being taken against them. This is a dangerous sign and is the most damning for higher judiciary in India.

Judiciary hinges completely on trust and once this trust gets eroded, all the public influence the higher judiciary has, will get completely eliminated. The Supreme Court, being the custodian of Judicial system in India will have to realize that the time has come when out of Judicial protections and privileges on one side and public perception and trust on the other, it would be better if it chose the later one.

Otherwise, it might be too late.

Dr Nutan Thakur
(The author is the Editor of
Nutan Satta Pravah, and based in Lucknow)