JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY & THE LAW OF CONTEMPT OF COURT
The role of the judiciary in the Indian polity has grown significantly over the years. Insensitivity and inertia of the executive and the legislature have turned the common people away from these organs of the State. The masses increasingly look up to the judiciary to redress their grievances, secure their rights and address the neglected issues of governance. The judiciary has also progressively been enlarging the space allocated to it under the scheme of the Constitution. In this context, it is of utmost importance to preserve the faith of the common man in the judiciary and ensure that it always functions in an objective and transparent manner which may inspire public confidence.
Unfortunately, the judiciary in India has shown a marked preference for a mode of functioning which would take it beyond the pale of public scrutiny and accountability. This preference is sought to be rationalized by invoking the high principle of independence and autonomy of the judiciary and incorporating it into the basic structure of the Constitution. The draconian law of contempt of courts bequeathed by a colonial power is freely used to silence any voice that might be raised to question the misconduct of a judge. The Delhi High Court has now, in the Mid Day Case, sought to extend the cloak of protection to retired members of the judicial fraternity on the ingenious ground that attribution of a personal motive to Justice Sabharwal, former Chief Justice of India, constituted a slur on his brother judges who sat on the bench that passed the order in question, and amounted to an attempt to lower the dignity of the institution of judiciary itself. The journalists responsible for the exposé and the publisher of Mid Day have, in consequence, been convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to four months' imprisonment.
- Kamal Kant Jaswal