Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Editorial, 'BE OPEN AND DO GOOD' in Law Animated World, 31 August 2009, Vol. 5: Part 2, No. 16 issue


is basically what is required of, and what people in general desire from, our superior courts’ judges to fulfill their constitutional obligations. Though not elected, and not removable save by impeachment in parliament, these judges nevertheless are public servants and as such cannot escape public scrutiny of their conduct and situation. As Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) had rightly said: “The public servants – legislators, executives, and judges alike – must be in every fact the servants of the people. The people must have the right to make and unmake these public servants, in order to hold them strictly accountable for their stewardship. … the people must not sur¬render to the Judiciary, any more than to the executive or legislative branches of the government…” And Frankfurter J (1882-1965) said: “Judges as persons, or courts as institutions, are entitled to no greater immunity from criticism than other persons or institutions. Just because the holders of judicial office are identified with the interests of justice they may forget their common human frailties and fallibilities.” As such the present controversy about disclosure of assets by Judges is quite regrettable and though it is set to some rest by the recent decision of our Supreme Court judges not only to disclose their assets but also ‘net’ify those declarations, still some problems remain as judges – even Mr. Justice Kannan, the first to publicly declare his assets – have reservations as to whether the information may not be used to harass them. He asks: “Should a judge be answering everyone how he has got the wealth that he has declared? Imagine a judge enquiring into allegations of disproportionate wealth case of a bureaucrat. …what if the litigant asks the judge, ‘how did you obtain your wealth, before asking me to explain my riches?’...” and wants some further curbs on action pursuant to such declarations. The answer is, that is a common problem for all public servants, and judges already have more secure constitutional safeguards. But I am certain Kannan J would also agree with us that even judges cannot be allowed to amass assets disproportionate to their legitimate incomes, and if they do so, then they must be accountable to and actionable by the people 

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