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Express india avuncluar_concerns

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  • 1. Avuncular concernsThe Indian Express Posted online: Monday , Aug 10, 2009 at 0340 hrsNo doubt about it, judges are fashioned for a nobler cause. Our higher judiciary self-selects new recruits, contempt laws ensure that even truth is not a defence, andimpeaching a senior judge is so tortuous, that in Independent India, not one has beensacked. Often termed the world’s most powerful, our high courts and Supreme Courthave earned their independence — they command respect like few other institutions. Butthis freedom demands a stricter standard.Which is why the trend of judges being appointed to the same high courts where their kinare practicing, is so disquieting. Of course, no lawyer is allowed to argue directly beforehis relative. But as long as they share the same court, in India’s “you scratch my back”legal fraternity, as in any other sphere of public life, suspicions of favours beingdispensed will never really go away. Besides, given the stringent norms that our judiciaryimposes on itself, this trend, what the Law Commission of India, in its latest report, callsthe “uncle-judge” system, is an issue that must be addressed. The Law Commission’ssolution is that judges never be appointed to the court where they previously practiced assuccessful lawyers. This, they argue, will minimise the chance of kin arguing and holdingin the same court.It is nobody’s argument that judges who have relatives in the same court areautomatically tainted. Indeed, it is often just a product of circumstance. Judges wouldnaturally want to work in the same city they practiced in, and in a country where family isas much an occupational unit as a social one, it is only fair that some of the judge’srelatives will want to earn a living in the same high court. But as the Law Commissionpoints out, Class II government officers and above are rarely posted to their home district.Why should high court judges be any different? Besides, there is a deeper principle. Theperks that our higher judiciary enjoy are predicated on their being above suspicion. Notbeing posted to your home turf is small price to pay. It is hoped that the LawCommission’s recommendations are taken up for serious and actionable debate.

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