By Mudliyar

Desecrating the holy temple of justice
The Holy Quran decrees that if you judge, judge with equity. A fundamental belief among Muslims is that a corrupt judge has a special hell in which he will burn in eternal fire. Even in the Buddhist scriptures there is a passage where a corrupt and a partial judge was born as a'Mala Perethaya'.

This column had been protective of the judiciary, when the whole country was crumbling with endemic corruption. The only glimmer of hope came from the judges of our land. The majority of them withstood the pressure from the executive and continued to uphold the law and the rights of the people.

The poorest of the poor in the villages accepted the decision of our courts without a murmur. Those who felt that some judgments were wrong had the belief that it will be overruled in the appellate courts without much difficulty. They never entertained the thought that it may have been due to other considerations other than questions of law or fact that may have impelled the judge to misdirect himself. Even if there was a mischievous goda perakadoruwa spreading a story like that of the "how the Rabbit jumped over the pot of curd", in folk lore.

It is said that during the time of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike the bribes to politicians were mainly a few measures of rice and other basic commodities and that teacher appointments were given to women at rest houses. What some politicians under Sirima Bandaranaike's regime earned by corruption for nearly seven years was not much. With the closed economy and no foreign investments, tenders nor procurements to wage war against the terrorist, the opportunity to make money was bleak.

With the Jayewardene regime opening up the economy, bribery and corruption galloped to new heights. It is said that what corrupt politicians tried to make within five years took others 17 years. It is now said the main reason for the impeachment of President Premadasa and the defeat of the PA Government was that the opportunity of making money was not diversified but concentrated in the hands of a few chosen people. Those who were deprived of this opportunity rebelled.

Nothing seems to be happening to cure the cancer of bribery and corruption that has spread like the AIDS virus in some African countries where villages are disappearing in a few months. Similarly honest men like U.B. Wanninayake, M.D. Banda, Dudley Senanayke, Hector Kobbekaduwa, Lesley Gunawardena to name a few are a forgotten breed.

It is not strange that this cancer of corruption should spread to the judiciary. Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was one person who tried to eradicate it on the home ground. He succeeded

to a very great extent. Though his methods may not have been the most fair. His conclusions that a particular magistrate was dishonest were correct and never questioned by any one.

The litigants, specially in the Magistrate's Court which deals with the police before they come to court believe that a few green notes would settle a dispute or prosecute the innocent. But the people of this country believes that no one is impregnable. That money could do wonders and that any saint will throw away his garb of honesty depending on the consideration that is being offered.

Chandradasa Nanayakkara always used to remark that "as much as I judge you, every one seated in this court house is judging me." The real judges are the people. They know which judge is partial or who his favourite lawyer and police officer is.

The word spreads around like wild fire. There is an eerie feeling that a few may not be holding the scales evenly.

Partly, the fault lies with the Judicial Service Commission. Let us say, the lawyers' complain of a situation that is developing in a particular court, where a judge's behaviour is unusual, that he has suddenly taken a liking to a particular lawyer, the refrain of the commission has been that the lawyers are against a particular judge as he is tough with the lawyers and the lawyers are angry with the judge as he is disposing cases and working hard.

Particularly in a provincial bar where there is only one judge, he is the virtual king and no one has so much power as a junior magistrate. Once the present Chief Justice remarked that not even the Supreme Court has so much of power as a Magistrate when it comes to remanding suspects. There was a time when no action was taken on the complaints of lawyers, especially when they complained as a group.

When the errant judge knows of this attitude he makes the lives of the lawyers who went on deputation miserable. The lawyers stopped complaining. Instead would have to try to live like a Roman in Rome.

Recently lawyers at a provincial bar complained about the manner in which a certain judge was behaving or rather misbehaving. It was obvious that the entire bar except one or two who were the blue eyed boys of the judge signed the petition against the judge. A judge who openly favours a lawyer to the detriment of the others, in my opinion is as bad as a judge who resorts to bribery and corruption. A judge who resorts to bribery will before long be found out. The people will even report such a judge to the Bribery Commission or the Judicial Service Commission. But a judge who on the pretext of making legal orders perverts his orders to suit a particular lawyer is aiding and abetting that particular lawyer to make money .

Some lawyers of this provincial bar gave up their practice as they would be doing untold injustice to their clients. What can a poor farmer do when he does not know a judge is biased and hell bent in destroying that particular lawyer's practice.

That lawyer was one among 20 other lawyers who signed a petition against the judge.

Recently another senior lawyer revoked his proxy as he knew that as long as he appeared before the judge his clients would suffer. The judge permitted this lawyer to revoke his proxy but ordered the client to retain another lawyer and gave him only one day.

It is alleged that when the next lawyer moved for a date, prohibitive cost was moved by the favourite lawyer of the judge. Then the judge was about to grant the request, the lawyer though he was not prepared to conduct the trial had to continue to the detriment of his client. The sad situation is that this happened after they met the members of the Judicial Service commission.

The lawyers who came all the way from the provincial court commended the JSC for having inquired into their complaint and are awaiting action to arrest this situation which is now beyond any repair.

But the dossier prepared by the lawyers in a metropolitan court about the sitting magistrate was unbelievable. It was like a fairy tale.

But they claim the material is supplemented with evidence. The JSC was flabbergasted that they also had other material which coincided with the material submitted by the bar. The JSC had no hesitation to immediately interdict the judge.

It is important that this situation should be nipped in the bud. As in the past if this situation is permitted to grow it will spread like a cancer and kill everything we stand for.

These complaints are few and far between. Recently in another court 18 case records were found under a carpet.

In this the interpreter was a judge, and he decided which case to be thrown under the carpet after the order. When a junior judge informed the senior judge he took no action against the errant officer. Let us support every one who strives to clean the court of corruption. Otherwise the outcome of a case would be decided by a process other than the law.

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