No One is Above Law, and Judges are No Exception

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A Bill on Judges (Assets and Liabilities) containing a clause, “no judge shall be subjected to any inquiry or query in relation to the contents of the declaration by any person” making judges a calls apart was violate of the constitution of the country. The opposition led by both BJP and Communists, stalled it forcing the Govt. to defer the Bill. They were not wrong either.

A greater transparency and accountability is called for in public life. Judges who hold the exalted position, should set highest standard of probity in public life. They cannot claim exemption as a class apart. No one is above law, and judges are no exception to it.

The Opposition in both Houses argued that no other public servant enjoys the special privilege and even the lawmakers were subjected to frivolous petitions and litigation by the affected parties. It is bound to happen in a democracy as citizens have a right to question the lawmakers and cannot be curtailed.

Recently there were cases and charges of corruption in judiciary. In a case of corruption, two High Court judges are facing actions including impeachment. In yet another case, a suitcase full of currencies, meant for one judge was delivered to another by mistake. If that is the case with judges of High Court, the charges against the judges of the lower courts are much worst. It has affected public faith in judiciary and people began to feel unsafe as judiciary has been playing into the wrong hands.

Exception is universal. There are many judges even today who have unquestionable integrity and maintain clean image throughout. To them, we salute.

The Right to Information Act and Representations of Peoples’ Act are two such laws that have set highest forms of transparency and accountability in public life. These laws have instilled fear among the public servants. People began to assert their constitutional rights by asking too many questions and seeking information through RTI Act, much to the discomfort and embarrassment of the public servants. Each time, they try to deny or delay furnishing information, state and central forums have pulled up the erring officials. In such a situation, if any special privilege is granted to judges as the proposed Bill sought to seek, then republican laws of equality would be defeated.

The opposition to the Bill was right this time and all their views may be taken into account when the Bill on Judges, is redrafted incorporating also some safeguards for Judges too, such as strict penalties for frivolous litigation etc. Govt. therefore should not stand on prestige on this issue, but view it from the public points of view and reintroduce Bill as soon as possible so that all Judges are made accountable on par with other public servants. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.