Should Indian judges be above the law?

August 5, 2009

India’s law minister on Tuesday was forced to defer the introduction of the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill because of strong protests from the opposition as well as his own party members.

For once, they raised their voices in unison against the provision that while judges are required to declare their assets before a designated authority, they are protected from public scrutiny and questioning.

A hotly contested section of the Bill says: “no judge shall be subjected to any inquiry or query in relation to the contents of the declaration by any person”.

Congress party’s own leaders have objected, saying the proposed law could violate the Right to Information Act that has empowered people and helped expose corruption.

It has invited scorn from lawyers, too: well-known lawyer Ram Jethmalani has described it as “a conspiracy in corruption” that would make people suspicious of the judiciary and places the latter “on a higher pedestal than any other public servant in the country”.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily has said the government was working on more comprehensive judicial reforms and that this was only a first step.

But until then, should our revered judges deserve special treatment? Why should they be above the law that governs other people in power and, indeed, the rest of the country?

11 comments

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A strict no. No one in India should be allowed to have special treatment when it comes to abiding by laws, least of all whose of all whose job is to make laws relevant in the society. In fact judges should think that declaring their assets publicly would herald a new era in fighting corruption in our country. The arguments against disclosing their asset details in public are lame and without any merit. It is also against the spirit of the RTI act.

Posted by Naveen Kumar | Report as abusive

There are striking similarities between our supreme court judges and our pouting cricketers seeking to be exempted from dope test regimens.Our judges do not seem to have realised that the problem of corruption has assumed such proportions as to call in to question the very idea of the rule of law.If they had, they would have probably co operated with alacrity.Our cricketers seem to be oblivious that drugs pervert the very idea of sports.They both give the unfortunate impression of having something to hide.Welcome to:Yet another “conspiracy in corruption”Andhra Pradesh High Court’s Pernicious Rebellion Against The Law .05/29/09RTI Act 2005 Abuse In Andhra Pradesh- SIC Cheats! Chief Secretary Lies!05/07/09Prejudiced CIC Laps Up PMO Lies 05/05/09Divakar S Natarajan and Varun Gandhi Cannot Both Be Wrong ! 01/28/09And India’s editorial class will not report the story!sathyagraha.blogspot.comDivakar’ s Sathyagraha News and views from Divakar S Natarajan’s, “no excuses”, ultra peaceful, non partisan, individual sathyagraha against corruption and for the idea of the rule of law in India.Now in its 18th year.It’s Not Just My Problem

“I am above the Law – Syndrome” or “The Judges Bill” (in present form) has an inherent potential to trickle some conflicting scenarios. e.g.1. As described above as well – “Right to Information ACT” will be jeopardised.2. Bias towards a particular litigant could become a regular practise (& could be bought as well).3. Integrity of Justice itself could be undermined as the issuer of Justice might have certain bias (probability).4. Trust of a Common Man in Judicial System might be dented & could lead to a civic war like situation in long term.5. Sustaining a Democratic & Secular society would become a path with lots of self imposed pit falls. As Judiacary is one of the pillars of Democracy….& lot more I would appreciate if more people write their views as well. (I am not in Law profession)Thanks & Regards

Posted by AGIL | Report as abusive

it’s not that judges are above the law. are the judges really public servants and i say no, judges uphold the law by their very nature and therefore any declaration on their part will come voluntarily out of a sense of justice, it doesn’t have to be legislated.

Posted by pesky | Report as abusive

India is marching progress in all directionsIndian Judicial systems are free from any interference.Now,at least ,they talk of corruption in major fields in concerned states,municipal bodies,central exercise,pass port offices,public health centers,public education as well as privates engineering and medical collegesDaily, Indian newspapers,any body read two or three alleged corruption scam,briber and some what’Right to Information Acts by the present central government is the right direction to all IndiansAll Judiciary personnels can also come under Right to Information Act with real ,genuine modifications for necessary self protection.Very bold article,with some censored comments.

This can happen only in India. Judges should not preach but should follow and lead by example. Everyone is equal before law and hence Judges are no special.Common sense should prevail.

Posted by Suresh | Report as abusive

@PeskyDo u think the judges will voluntarily declare their assets in public? If yes what they have been doing till now. Technically judges are not public servants but they are citizens of India. I don’t need to remind u that how deep corruption has penetrated into our society. A valid question at this stage would be that why the law is talking only about the judges of high courts. Judges from lower courts must be included in this law. Only the we can fight corruption.

Posted by Naveen Kumar | Report as abusive

As an American lawyer, I tremendously ADMIRE the world’s largest democracy. OF COURSE there should be NO exemption for judges. But the fact that India even HAS a Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill shows what a great country it is. The vigorous, open debate over the terms of the law shows this even more clearly. Churchill was right: “Democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man — except for all the others.”

Posted by David | Report as abusive

As a person who had worked for more than a 25 years in the public sector bank an an officer in various capacities it is incumbant on the part of the employee to declare the assets and liabilities statements of all Movable and immovable assets to the management every year and it is a voluntary excercise to be followed by all.This is pre requesite for all the employees before going to higher promotions.There is no aprehension that the data will be used by other persons.Where is the reservation that the data will be misused if all your assets and liabilities are declared genuinely and to the best of your knowledge.

No nononononononononononononononononononono nonononononononononoknononononononono, way Judges should be excluded from law governing the common men/women. We all live in a democratic society and each and everyone has the equal right so Judges are no exception.How in the world ministers come out with this kind of exemption BILL, we rather need to investigate the cause as to why we need it and which lobby is behind it.Judges must be a role model.

Posted by D Gangola | Report as abusive

It will be interesting to see the assets of CJI K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Sadasivam. I am sure Sadasivam will disclose only a fraction of his wealth earned through his community persons – Gounders. Shame on Indian judiciary.

Posted by Seshan | Report as abusive