ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Prashant Bhushan

Scuttling Inconvenient Judicial Appointments

If there is a message from the way the appointment of Gopal Subramanium to the Supreme Court was scuttled by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government, it is that the new government will do its best to keep out judges who, it feels, may be inconvenient. It is time once again for the establishment of a truly independent and transparent appointments commission; but will the government and judiciary take the idea forward?

Initiatives and Referendums

In India's representative democracy, people select their representatives once in fi ve years to make laws and policies on their behalf. Limiting the participation of people to voting once in fi ve years makes the elected representatives unresponsive to the people who have elected them. Initiatives and referendums provide a political mechanism to ensure that citizens' voices can provide a counterbalance to a legislature unresponsive to peoples' interests. They are instruments of direct democracy in which people vote directly on issues of policy and lawmaking. These instruments, however, are not meant to replace representative democracy, but to complement it and to help maintain its responsiveness to the people.

Legitimising Tax Avoidance

The Vodafone tax case in which the Supreme Court overturned a Bombay High Court ruling on the validity of the income tax department claim on capital gains incurred in the sale transaction between Hutch and Vodafone has been hailed as a boost for corporate investment. However, what the ruling does is favour tax avoidance strategies. Indeed, it goes against the Supreme Court's own ruling in 1986 in opposition to such strategies.

The Dinakaran Imbroglio: Appointments and Complaints against Judges

Serious and substantive allegations of corruption have been raised against Karnataka Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, who the Supreme Court Collegium is considering for nomination to the highest court in the country. The collegium has had to consider the import of these allegations though it is yet to take a final decision. But there are larger issues underlined by the Dinakaran episode. Until we put in place a credible system of selecting judges and examining complaints against them, we will be seeing many more Dinakarantype episodes, each of which will contribute to the steady erosion of the integrity and public confidence in the judicial system.

Judicial Accountability: Asset Disclosures and Beyond

Public pressure, the principled position taken by certain judges and one ruling by the Delhi High Court have compelled public disclosure of assets by judges. But this is certainly not the end of the serious problem of a lack of judicial accountability. The main issue is the absence of an independent credible institution which could entertain complaints against judges, investigate them and take action against errant members of the bench.

Misplaced Priorities and Class Bias of the Judiciary

It is clear from the recent record of the higher judiciary that the imperative of upholding civil liberties, socio-economic rights, and environmental protection has been subordinated to agendas such as the "war on terror", "development" and satisfying corporate interests. Far from remaining faithful to the motives that resulted in the institution of public interest litigation, the Supreme Court has tended to act against the interests of the socio-economically backward.