Tipping the Scales

August 1, 2013 Published Work
Fountain Ink

Checking corruption in India is a Herculean endeavour by any reckoning, and the higher courts have done a noble job of exposing some of the most egregious attempts to rob the exchequer. In the process, they have broken new ground in jurisprudence that could make it easier to catch the bad guys.

"Judges must know their limits and must not try to run the Government. They must not…behave like emperors."­—divisional manager, Aravali Golf Club v. Chander Hass, 2008 (1) SCC 683, para 20.

Traditionally, the Supreme Court has deferred to the elected branches of government: the legislature and executive. Judges have repeatedly cited Montesquieu's separation of powers and the need for judicial restraint.

Recently, however, this trend has changed dramatically. P. J. Thomas's central vigilance commissioner (CVC) appointment case, the spectrum scam, and Coalgate are a few instances when the judiciary's reaction was markedly different from its traditional deference to the elected branches. Judges have not minced words in criticising the executive and bringing it to book. During Kanimozhi's anticipatory bail hearings, for instance, Justice Swatanter Kumar famously remarked: "Corruption is the worst form of human rights violation," and hence, the court was taking cognisance of the matter.

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