The Andhra Pradesh High Court has performed a judicial operation of the State Chief Minister, Mr. N.T. Rama Rao by upholding corruption charges against him. He has been indicted for using his office to benefit his relatives. The High Court has done what all the craftiness and cunningness of the Congress (I) had failed to do. Even Indira Gandhi’s dismissal of Mr. N.T. Ramo Rao in 1984 had recoiled so violently that she had to reinstate him and “snub” the Governor for his “hasty” action.

Political maneuvers to dislodge an opponent are perfectly in order and justifiable but subverting judiciary to secure political advantages is to rock the very foundation on which the edifice of democracy rests. It is a clear indication of the growing dominance of the fascist elements in the administration. The judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court coming in the wake of the Thakkar Natarajan Commission’s report inevitably raises disturbing questions about the integrity of the judges and calls for a serious review of the procedures of their appointment and the conditions of their service and promotion.

The historic judgment by an Allahabad Judge unseating Indira Gandhi from the Parliament and disqualifying her for six years from contesting elections for the first time demonstrated the power of independent judiciary in a democratic set up. Instead of bowing to the judgment, Indira Gandhi defeated it through an amendment in the constitution and started a clandestine process to recruit a “committed judiciary”. The idea of “committed judiciary” was borrowed from the Soviet ideologists.

Consequently in the appointment of judges to higher courts, merit and seniority were sacrificed at the altar of loyalty to the ruling party. And to make those already serving on various benches tow the official line, a Damocles sword in the form of interstate transfers was put over the heads of the judges. The fear of a transfer to an inconvenient state is enough to get the desired judgment out of the majority of the judges.

It is in this context that the judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court or the reports of the Supreme Court judges like Thakkar and Natarajan should be viewed. Ordinarily, of course, Mr. Rama Rao should have bowed to the judgment and tendered his resignation. But in the extenuating circumstances obtaining in India and the prestige of judiciary being what it is today, Mr. Rama Rao would be fully justified in ignoring the judgment. He should rely more on the goodwill of the people he represents than be swayed by the pronouncements of “yes men” dressed as judges. Besides, in ignoring the judgment, he would only be following the precedent set by no less a person than the late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.

His refusal to bow to the adverse judgment might initiate a popular clamor for the total overhaul of the thoroughly discredited judiciary and might serve as the proverbial silver line in the otherwise dark firmament of India. Hopefully, it might also prevent repetition of facial stunts like Mishra Commission, Sarkaria Commission, and other such equally ignominious blots on the face of the Indian judiciary.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 8, 1988