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  • Writer's pictureDean Clark

Corruption within India’s Judicial System

Whether it be bribery, getting a desired day in court, or any sort of unjust practice to sway the results of a trial, India’s judicial system remains as one riddled with corruption from many sides. Lawyers, administrative staff, judges, defendants, and more have used these practices to sway countless cases, and exist at all levels of the court system. While the Indian Supreme Court is generally reserved for the cases of highest importance or urgency, because of petitions and the implementation of bribery, the public or individuals outside the Supreme Court have been able to decide what cases go to the highest court of law in India. At least at the High Court level, one step below the Supreme Court, corrupt judges can be impeached under the Judges inquiry Act of 1968, but have to have support of at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 members of the Upper House of Parliament, or Rajya Sabha.

Staff shortages, case backlogs, different levels of corruption in judiciary hearings, and many other factors have led to the prominent nature of corruption within India’s courts. According to The Guardian from around 2016, India has 18 judges per million inhabitants, one of the lowest in the world, whereas many nations have well over 50 per million, and the US having double that at 107 per million. This may partially be due to the overpopulation and abundance of citizens in India, but still limits the amount of trials that can be heard significantly. Coinciding with this, 30 million outstanding cases were in the system in 2015, as BBC said, and that the Supreme Court itself only handles about 2,600 cases a year, meaning the cases will literally never be finished at this rate.

The worst part to this is the secretive, whispered insinuations of this occurring is almost the only punishment, as many of the justices who have been caught in a corrupt practice have been able to step down with little or no repercussions. One of the first instances of punishing corrupt judges was in May 2017 when Honorable Justice C. S. Karnan was found guilty of contempt of the court, and only punished because of making allegations against the court afterward. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison, and has happened again somewhat recently, but definitely is not common, where in lower courts corruption is more openly exposed.

There are few but abusable loopholes in the Indian Judicial system, one stating that you cannot register a case against a judge presumed of corruption without the permission of the CJI. Since it is tough for poorer people to do this, most of the time, it protects them and allows judges to abuse their power against lower classes in court. Markandey Katju, former judge of the Indian Supreme Court, while addressing lawyers of Punjab and Haryana claimed that 50%, half of higher court judges were corrupt, a shocking statistic if true. However, many experts feel that corruption bleeding into the higher courts such as the Indian Supreme Court is a direct result of the lower class, district or courts having corrupt practices undermines and allows for it to spread. The collusion on this lower level sets a precedent that if a judge moves up, they stick to what they have done in lower courts, continuing corrupt practices.

Going into bribes specifically, many are done for all different reasons. First off, and most common, for a favorable judgment in the trial, to win a case and possibly a monetary settlement if in a case such as a civil case calling for payment. A second reason is to get a quicker judgment of the case, either to speed up the process or get their case through to a court, as there is a gigantic backlog of trials to be done. Another is to pay for bail, or to allow someone out who may not have been allowed out on bail. Manipulating a witness to say something you want them or do not want them to say is another, less directly paying to win the case, but to pay a witness, which may be easier to persuade. Finally, influencing the Public Prosecutor on the basis of the F.I.R. or State cases is common as well.

There are many different ways to fix these problems, all within the ability of the government, in order to keep order in India’s judicial system. Use of new technologies, offering other ways to dispute court cases and corrupt justices, and making the justices actually accountable for their actions by punishment, following a more stringent code of conduct, and other certain special measures like citizen judges will all aid in a better judicial system. While there is a lot of work needed to fix the Indian Judicial system, there is hope that it will soon become one of honor and not known specifically for corruption or lack of judges with way too many cases at hand.

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