Amba Charan Vashishth
At a time when politicians, bureaucrats and judges are just bold to deny the charges against them but do everything to stall inquiry into their conduct, it was a whiff of fresh air in the Indian sub-continent comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh when the Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, suo moto took cognizance of allegations against his son Arsalan Iftikhar who is alleged to have received ` 400 million from tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain to influence cases in the apex court.
Whenever charges of corruption or wrongdoings are hurled at our politicians, our eyes and ears go sick of reading and hearing the same stale, oft-repeated chorus of reaction of our politicians: the allegations are false, unfounded, politically motivated and aimed at character assassination. Some are more chivalrous to declare that they would prefer to be hung by the nearest lamppost or quit politics if found guilty. At the same time they would do all in their power — administrative, political clout and judicial avenues at their command — to stall any inquiry. They volunteer to pronounce a judicial verdict of their “innocence” without letting anybody peep into the allegations and evidence against them and without providing their accusers the opportunity to prove the case against them.
Not only did the Chief Justice immediately constitute a 3-member Bench headed by him but started the proceedings against him the next day. When his son appeared before the Bench in the Supreme Court, promising full justice and pointing a finger at his son Justice Chaudhry said: “He is just Arsalan and not my son as he faces the charge in the court.”
On June 7, Justice Chaudhry recused himself from hearing the case and also indicated that he may enlarge the Bench hearing the case.
On the other hand, on this side of the border, hundreds of cases against politicians, bureaucrats and other influential people are hanging fire for decades without hearing giving accused the opportunity to declare that no court in the country has given a verdict of guilty.
In an unprecedented action, the Supreme Court of India on May 10, 2012 asked the government to inquire into allegations of corruption and misconduct levelled against former CJI and present NHRC chief K G Balakrishnan. It said “the competent” authority in the government would conduct a detailed inquiry into the complaint against him by Committee for Judicial Accountability. Even after a month nobody knows what has happened after that. Justice
Balakrishnan continues to occupy the exalted office.
About two decades back the then Pak President had dissolved Punjab and other assemblies and dismissed the elected council of ministers. The aggrieved persons knocked the door of the court and the Supreme Court in about two months gave justice declaring the action as illegal and restored both the State assemblies and the council of ministers. We have yet to have similar instances in this country. Court verdicts in such cases come after years robbing the element of justice and reducing the same just to a piece of paper of academic d importance just for future reference. The much-quoted Kashvanand Bharati case concerning dissolution of Karnataka assembly is such a glaring example.
Numerous other cases could be counted. Many are pending even now.
Needless to recall Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is the same CJ of Pakistan Supreme Court who had refused to salute in obedience to the dictates of then Military Dictator General Musharraf and revolted to maintain the dignity and supremacy of the judiciary. It was this revolt which cost the General very dearly and ultimately in the 2007 elections led to his down fall.
Our salute to Justice Chaudhary! We need to learn a lot from the Pakistan example.
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator