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Katju relies on doubtful quote to claim victory over Lodha: CJI 'U-turned' on judicial corruption

Ex-Supreme Court judge and Press Council of India chairman, Justice Markandey Katju, has posted a blog with the title “Defaming the Judiciary”, claiming that Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha had “made a complete U-turn” after being quoted at a converence as saying that “there is agrowing corruption in the judiciary”.

Katju asked in his post, presumably rhetorically, whether Lodha was now also defaming the judiciary with the observation, as Lodha had earlier alluded to during the debate around the National Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), when Katju became a vociferous whistleblower about alleged incidents of judicial corruption during his tenure.

At the event, Lodha made a forceful argument for judicial independence, vowing that it would continue to withstand all attacks. The Indian Express reported Lodha as saying, “worst form of ailment in the thriving democracy... As economy and industry grow, corruption also grows. With the growing corruption, it is very important that the judiciary is corruption-free. There are people who play all sorts of tricks on judges and are prepared to tempt judges and please those who man judiciary. We have to ensure that corruption is eradicated in all forms in judiciary. It entails impunity if there is any amount of corruption in judiciary.”

However, The Hindu, quoted Lodha with: “There is growing corruption today. There are people who will play all sorts of tricks and tempt judge. Do not fall for this. We have to ensure that judiciary is corruption-free, and then Rule of Law will follow.”

Katju seemed to have picked up on The Hindu wording of the quote rather than the Indian Express and agency copy (below), where Lodha seems to refer to a general growth of corruption in the country rather than just in the judiciary. Katju then blogged over the weekend:

On 12th August, 2014 the Chief Justice of India, Justice Lodha, said “ Some people are trying to defame the judiciary “. He also said “ For God’s sake do not shake the confidence of the people in the judiciary. ‘

Obviously these remarks were directed against me ( without naming me ), because at that time I had made exposures about corruption in the higher judiciary, which led to a furore, and were widely discussed on T.V. channels and in the press. Obviously, according to Justice Lodha, I was trying to defame the judiciary, and was trying to shake the confidence of the people in the judiciary.

In a recent blog and facebook post of mine I had asked the question : does corruption by judges defame the judiciary, or does exposing such corruption defame it ?

Now on 13th September, i.e. just about a month of his previous outburst, Justice Lodha has made a complete U-turn. While speaking at the ‘ Rule of Law Convention ‘ in Delhi he is reported as saying “ There is growing corruption in the judiciary “.

Now who is trying to defame the judiciary, and who is trying to shake the confidence of the people in it ?

IANS' full report of the event:

Chief Justice R.M. Lodha Saturday said that the independence of the judiciary is not negotiable and any attempt to tinker with it will not succeed, adding that to strengthen the rule of law the judiciary will have to ensure that it was completely corruption-free.

He made these observations at the Rule of Law Convention, 2014 organised by the Bar Association of India in the national capital here.

He said: “The independence of the judiciary is not negotiable. I can say with confidence that judicial independence has come to stay and no effort will succeed in taking it away.”

“By and large, people understand that judicial independence is something which cannot be touched,” said Chief Justice Lodha in his inaugural address.

“When economy grows, industry grows and also grows corruption. It is very, very important that judiciary is corruption free... it is a worst form of ailment for a thriving democracy,” he said while exhorting the legal fraternity to guard against any attempt to corrupt the judiciary.

The chief justice said that “judicial independence gives confidence to the people that there is an independent judiciary that will come to their rescue if any wrong is done to them by the executive or others.”

He said that the appointment of judges for the higher judiciary should be in a transparent manner.

He referred to the discussions he had with the heads of the legal system in Britain about the working of the Judicial Appointments Commission which is headed by a person of non-judicial background.

Chief Justice Lodha said that despite some initial difficulties, the system, introduced in Britain five years back, was working and he was told that there was no decline in the quality of judges.

They (British) said that there was no change in the quality of judges and (they) said that “they have achieved transparency (in the appointment of judges at all levels) and that is important.”

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The government has highest regard for the judiciary. The independence of judiciary is sacred and sacrosanct for the government. When I say so, I say it with deep sense of commitment and conviction.”

In his welcome address, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that the rule of law is the spine of democracy and with that goes the independence of judiciary, rule of law, the enforcement of fundamental rights and the respect of every organ of the state, including respect for each organ’s domain.

Rohatgi said that unless litigation is reduced drastically, rule of law will suffer as the mounting litigation will affect the expeditious disposal of cases.

“Problem seems to be with the mindset in bureaucracy that the thing should be left to the court. The idea is to pass the buck to the law officer or the court,” he said, deriding the escapist mindset of officialdom.

Senior counsel and Bar Association of India president Anil B. Divan urged the legal fraternity to uphold the sanctity of constitutional functionaries like Comptroller and Attorney General (CAG), Election Commission and others.

Referring to the CAG expose of irregularities in the allocation of 2G licences and spectrum, Divan said that a “CAG report, a PIL and its judicial determination enriched the public exchequer by Rs.40,000 crore” when the cancelled licences were auctioned.

“The legal fraternity is under obligation to protect these institutions from assault (from political quarters) and uphold their sanctity”, Divan said.

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