Off late there is a lot of talk regarding the necessity to have a Judges Accountability Bill. Even when the Lokpal Bill was being debated the inclusion of judges into this bill was strongly opposed by the government despite members of the civil society urging the government to make such an inclusion.
Off late there have been reports galore regarding judges being offered sites or houses under the discretionary quota of the Chief Minister. Recently there was an expose at the Orissa High Court. Prior to this there were reports from Karnataka and also another report which spoke about how the Narendra Modi government had offered prime lands to judges of the High Court.
The big question is whether judges deserve such treatment from the state government considering the fact that the government is the biggest litigant before any court in the country? Is this an illegality or is it corruption?
Justice Santhosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India says it is illegal to accept sites under the discretionary quota. Judges ought to know that while accepting such sites they are succumbing to temptation. They have to examine any such offer and find out properly whether it is in accordance with law or not. It is very dangerous to accept such favours since in the days to come it would hold against themselves.
Speaking of a judges accountability bill, well there is one but it has not come out as yet. This has been loitering around for some years now and it is time that something is done about it. In fact while we were discussing the Lokpal bill this was one of the primary contentions during the debate. Either the government had to include it into the Lokpal Bill or make functional the judges accountability bill. However there was a lot of misunderstanding regarding this. All I said was it was not right to leave out the judges when we are fighting corruption. They should include this portion into the Lokpal bill. However once the Judges Accountability Bill is made functional then it could be deleted out of the Lokpal bill. There was no need to keep this in abeyance until that happened. When this issue is being argued and fought for the past 44 years then it is impertive for the government to include it.
Senior Advocate in the Karnataka High Court, Navkesh Batra is of the view that taking sites under the discretionary quota is nothing but corruption. First and foremost Judges are not entitled for a site under this quota. This quota is meant for poor people, outstanding people including judges. It cannot be given as a bul allotment as it amounts to nothing but a sop. When the government is the biggest litigant before any court in India then such a sop does not instill confidence in the public and it would be better if both the government and the judiciary abstains from such an act. Here I would like to quote the incident involving the great Justice R A Jagirdhar of the Bombay High Court. In fact he was the only judge who refused to apply for a site despite a request by the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He even went one step further and at a public function when the CM sought to shake his hand he publicly rebuked him by saying, ” Mr CM your cases are pending before the high court. As a high court judge I refuse to shake your hand.”