Independent judiciary is the hallmark of a free society and its constitutional democracy. In a free society, judiciary works free from any external pressure or ‘threat’. This is to ensure that in the functioning of judiciary there is no misuse of power by any vested interest. This is not an abstract concept in India, but rather a well-acknowledged norm that has been practised with zeal and grit since the promulgation of the Constitution. But nowadays some misguided persons have shown cheek and temerity to criticise and even target honourable judges.
As we are going to the press, this bordering-on-contempt-to-court issue once again came to light on July 11 when Justice H.P. Sandesh of the Karnataka High Court recorded in a written order that he had received an ‘indirect threat’ of transfer ‘through a sitting judge’ for passing orders against the head of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the State in a case allegedly involving Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru (Urban) [Mahesh P S v. State of Karnataka vide Case No. CRL.P 4909/2022]. A week earlier, on July 4, Justice Sandesh had orally made this sensational revelation to this effect during a hearing.
Hearing a bail application filed by one accused PS Mahesh, a deputy Tahsildar arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe of `5 lakh in connection with giving a favourable order from the DC office on a land dispute case, Justice Sandesh stated: “The Chief Secretary is directed that before posting officers that too to an institution established for prevention of corruption to take note of the public interest and should not be posting any tainted officers to the helm of affairs of the institution established for the prevention of corruption.” The ACB has however filed a Special Leave Petition against the orders of Justice Sandesh in the Supreme Court and on the plea of urgent mentioning made by the Solicitor General the Apex Court is likely to hear it on July 12.
This is not the lone case of interference in the judicial process. On July 3, a mahapanchayat held at Manesar in Gurgaon district of Haryana under the banner of ‘Samast Hindu Samaj’ including the Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad went to the extent of demanding the ‘impeachment’ of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.B. Pardiwala of the Supreme Court, who had held the then spokesperson of BJP Nupur Sharma ‘single-handedly responsible’ for what is happening in the country, said that her loose tongue has ‘set the entire country on fire’, and demanded her to apologise to the country for her divisive remarks on Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
This is nothing less than targeting judges for not succumbing to the whims of powerful litigants. It would be in the greater interest of the nation if the Apex Court takes stringent measures to stem the rot and thus protect the independence of judiciary.