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The fate of Indian Judiciary: Social implications of Justice Karnan case

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Nitesh Rai
Postgraduate Student Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.

The case of justice Karnan has once again exposed the deep-rooted problems in Indian judiciary. I do not want to jump into the constitutional debate over his arrest order by apex court or orders issued by justice Karnan to the chief justice of India and the other six judges of the supreme court, rather I would like to make an analysis of this entire episode from a social point of view.

What could be the possible impacts of this entire fuss on the society? Would Indian judiciary be able to retain the faith of the society if controversies of such nature are allowed in future? In a country like India, where the judiciary entertains high respect in contrast to legislature and executive, would controversies of such kind would allow the Indian judiciary to keep intact, it’s respectable and pristine status? These are some very serious concerns coming out gradually with the development of such cases where the functioning of the judiciary has come under intense criticism.

The charges of corruption made by Justice Karnan are very serious in nature because it not only includes the retired judges of Supreme Court rather it also claims the sitting judges of various high courts and Supreme Court guilty and
corrupt. Judiciary in India is supposed to be the biggest crusader against practices of corruption and the court has proved it so many times through its verdicts, for example, 2G scam, Coal scam etc. But how long our courts can isolate themselves in the guard of some landmark judgments against corruption? Justice Karnan is not the only person making corruption charges against judges of various courts, Justice Markandey Katju a retired judge of Supreme Court has also been very critical and vocal about the same. He has reiterated this many times in different conferences and talks. These allegations cannot be treated as trivial charges because voices from the judiciary itself are emerging against prevailing corruption in the system.


This would not only create a trust deficit among people rather it would also make people more susceptible about the court judgments. Imagine a situation where an aggrieved person has lost his/her case and then he/she heard such kind of news where the concerned judge of the case himself has been alleged as corrupt from his fellow judge. Would he/she be in a position to accept the judgment with full respect and digest it as free from any error and prejudices? This poses a serious problem, not before the aggrieved party only, but for the nation as a whole.

The problems do not end here, along with charges of corruption Justice Karnan has also expressed his extreme discontent about being discriminated on the basis of his caste. This already has created an uproar in society. People mainly from the Dalit community are showing their displeasure and anger by changing their profile picture in solidarity with Karnan on different social platforms. Various students’ groups within and outside India have started a campaign in support of Justice Karnan through social media posts, articles, and discussion forums at different levels. Some scholars have gone to such an extent where they termed Indian judiciary as a “Brahmanical Judiciary”. They are now looking the judicial system dominated and influenced by caste hierarchy, where there is very little or no space for people of lower caste. They have some very serious question about a number of Dalit judges in the higher judiciary which is very few. This again raises a serious concern of faith and trust of people, especially from the lower section of society into the judiciary.

If we set aside the issue of justice Karnan for a moment, there have been many other instances where the image of the judiciary has come under serious threats. The way case of Salman Khan was dealt with our judicial system, it attracted a number of criticisms like “justice is only for rich and not for poor”. Many people decried this judgment, where the judgment of session court was rejected and Salman was acquitted within the same day. What about those people who are in prisons for a long time waiting for their case to appear before a judge and get justice? Is justice is only for those who can afford good lawyers? Be it the case of Kalikho Pul, Jaylalita or NJAC, the court has faced harsh criticism from a larger chunk of the population.


We have many other cases which are substantial to prove that somewhere down the line the image of our judiciary is tarnishing. This is not to place the judiciary in faulty line altogether, but these cases are ample to give an alarming bell for the judicial system because for a successful democracy to run an independent judiciary is imperative which is free from corruption, nepotism, caste discrimination etc. If our judicial system does not bring reforms sooner, the days are not far when it may face the lack of trust and authenticity in its pronounced judgments by the people at large. In order to restore the trust and faith of society, courts have to ensure that no such stains of corruption and nepotism are there on its wall. However, it would be wrong to hold responsible court solely for all problems.

The Court cannot increase the strength of judges because it is the prerogative of the government. The collective effort from both judiciary as well as government is the need of the hour to intact the structure of the judicial system of India. Democracy without fair judicial system can’t survive and therefore this problem should be prioritized without any further delay.

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Nitesh Rai
Postgraduate Student Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.

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