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

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The Crisis in the Judiciary

Having sentenced JusticeC S Karnan to imprisonment for criminal contempt of court, the Supreme Court cannot afford to drift back into complacency about the judiciary’s troubles. The systemic problems with judicial appointment and accountability become obvious when we examine other instances of misbehaviour by judges thathave wrecked damage to the judiciary’s credibility.

In sentencing Justice C S Karnan to six months’ imprisonment for contempt of court on 9 May, the Supreme Court has caused itself immense damage. Even apart from the obnoxious pre-emptive media gag imposed in the order, the Court’s attempt at disciplining Karnan has restored confidence neither in the judges, nor in the institution itself. Having relieved Karnan of all administrative and judicial responsibilities in the first hearing itself, the Court tried to impose its authority by escalating the matter. Instead, it has been made to look foolish as its orders have moved further away from the law and have been mocked on a regular basis by Karnan himself.

As bizarre and unprecedented as the proceedings regarding Karnan are, they also serve to highlight the underlying systemic problems in the higher judiciary. Karnan is only the latest judge in the recent past to have had a run-in with the law. In just the last decade or so, we have seen two high court judges, JusticeP D Dinakaran and Justice Soumitra Sen, face impeachment hearings in Parliament for corruption and abuse of power, and resign before the final impeachment motion was passed (Press Trust of India 2011a, 2011b); one retired high court judge, Justice Nirmal Yadav, facing trial before in a Central Bureau of Investigation case concerning bribery (Press Trust of India 2014); and another judge, Justice C V Nagarjuna Reddy, against whom impeachment proceedings have begun for having allegedly discriminated against a Dalit judge in the state subordinate judiciary (Misra 2016). It is worth recalling in detail the failings that each of these instances have exposed.

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Updated On : 19th May, 2017

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