Supreme Court directive follows PIL accusing judicial officers of manipulating results
The judiciary may lie outside the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, a proposed anti-corruption legislation introduced in Parliament, but a petition lying unheard in the Chhattisgarh High Court accuses the State's judicial officers of manipulating the results of the civil judge examinations of 2008 to favour children and relatives of senior judges and politicians.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Registrar-General of the High Court on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition alleging that examiners inflated the marks awarded to the children of Justice Radhe Shyam Sharma, a sitting judge of the High Court and former Principal Secretary Law in the Chhattisgarh government, the niece of Brij Mohan Aggarwal, former Law Minister and present Minister for Public Works, Education, Religion, Culture, Tourism and Parliamentary Affairs.
The petition was filed by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform on the basis of a Right to Information request filed by Rashmi Nanda (37), who also took the test but was not selected. “I took the exam four times [in all] and each time made it to the interview stage,” said Ms. Nanda, who is an Assistant Public Prosecutor. “This time [in 2008] I was sure I had made it… all my papers had gone well and so I filed an RTI.”
Answer scripts released under the RTI Act revealed that the examiners had violated norms that mandated each candidate's marks be noted in numerals and words. As per the petition, the marks awarded to Jyoti Aggarwal, the niece of Mr. Aggarwal, were changed in two places, while Abhishek Sharma, son of Mr. Justice Sharma, was given three extra marks that allowed him to clear the waiting list by one mark. Mr. Justice Sharma's daughter, Vibha Pandey, was allegedly given eight out of 10 marks for incorrectly translating a particular passage. In each case, the marks were noted only in numerals, allowing, the petition alleges, the marks to be altered subsequently.
In a telephone conversation, Ms. Nanda said lawyers at the High Court refused to appear on her behalf, forcing her to represent herself. “Two judges recused themselves from hearing my case without giving any reason… the petition was not heard for two years,” she said.
Ms. Nanda finally approached Prashant Bhushan, convener of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform and a member of Team Anna, the coalition campaigning for a strong Lokpal Act.
Mr. Bhushan said: “This case shows how appointments to the lower judiciary are manipulated with the involvement of the High Court. Appointments are taking place by wilfully neglecting the successful candidates.”