Corrupt judges: Open letter to Soli Sorabjee

Prashant Bhushan, one of India’s leading advocates, is facing contempt proceedings after he alleged in an interview to Tehelka magazine (September 2009 issue) that eight of the last 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.

His father and India’s former law minister, Shanti Bhushan, recently sought to implead himself in the contempt petition filed against his son.

The father-son duo’s attempt to cleanse India’s higher judiciary of corruption is courageous but former attorney general Soli Sorabjee thought otherwise. He told Times of India that the “senior Bhushan’s application seeking contempt proceedings against himself was nothing but filial loyalty, irresistible itch for martyrdom and ravages of old-age.”

The letter is in response to the unfortunate remarks by a very senior legal luminary.

Also Read

Prashant Bhushan’s Affidavit in SC (December 2009)
Shanti Bhushan’s Affidavit in SC (September 2010)

Letter

Dear Mr Sorabjee,

Kindly refer to your comments about Mr Shanti Bhushan reported in Times of India, dated 19/9/2010. One would have thought that better sense would have prevailed after your recent spat with another senior and respected member of the Bar, Mr Fali Nariman. You tried to close the matter by stating that both of you were in the evening of your lives and should be left in peace. That you could not resist unfairly attacking yet another highly respected lawyer, shows that attacking senior colleagues is a pathological trait of yours.

This riposte is to expose the pettiness of each of the three charges – filial loyalty, itch for martyrdom and ravages of old age –  that you have managed to level in one sentence against Mr Shanti Bhushan.

Filial loyalty: That the two Bhushans are related is well known. What is also well known in legal circles is that there is an organization called the Campaign for Judicial Accountability of which both the Bhushans are active members along with other prominent conscientious lawyers and persons.  The peoples’ judge – Justice Krishna Iyer – is a patron of that organization.

Both the Bhushans have shown a strong commitment to Judicial reforms and have publicly taken up the issue of corruption in judiciary at the highest level at every fora. They are admired by many for their courage, crusade and the causes of public interest that they espoused.

From the above facts  which are in the  public domain, it is no surprise that two persons, though related, share a passion for a cause that is dear to them both? It is like you sharing the cause of making money by representing multinationals and rich corporates with your more successful daughter who runs the most lucrative legal firm in the country.

The more astonishing part of your criticism relates to your implying that Mr Shanti Bhushan will swear a false affidavit to save his son. How could you sink so low Mr Sorabjee? You have known him for a long time. Do you really believe that he will swear to a false affidavit?

Which brings me to the second part of your criticism – Irresistible itch for martyrdom. If I understand the context correctly you imply that senior Bhushan will become a hero by  going to prison! Does Shanti Bhushan need to go to jail to become a hero in the year 2010. He has been a hero in the eyes of millions of people since 1975.

As for going to prison, Shanti Bhushan has been there and you have not. In certain families it is considered an honour to go to jail for a cause. Obviously not in yours!

Shanti Bhushan does not lose the case either way. It is a masterstroke from a genius to cleanse the judiciary of corruption. Posterity will be grateful for this gift to the nation.

Ravages of old age: Do not make fun of a person’s age. You too are no spring chicken. You may have reasons to consider yourself young, but that does not entitle you make fun of senior Bhushan’s age. Shanti Bhushan, though in his eighties, is the grand young man of the legal profession, who fights for causes that even younger people do not have the courage to fight for. To describe it as ravages of old age is not to belittle him but to belittle yourself. If you do not see any corruption in the judiciary it is because of your lust for money and to curry favour with those who decide your cases.

Do you really consider yourself immortal, Mr Sorabjee? Please behave with some dignity and do not tempt others to write your epitaph during your lifetime – of having been the savior of Mr Anderson and of your Hinduja connection while you were Attorney General.

I understand that Prashant had written about how as Attorney General you conspired with the Hinduja’s solicitors to use your office to help them to the detriment of the public exchequer. He had suggested that you could be prosecuted under the PCA. Were you trying to get even? One would not be surprised if you were!

Mr Sorabjee, you are old enough to consider as to how you will be remembered. Try writing an autobiography.

However, both Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant will be remembered for the cases they argued for the people of the country. Do not grudge the noble cause for which they fight, lest people like me say that you have lost your marbles. It is a cause that nobody in this country will fight for.

With regards

Arun K Agrawal

(Disclosure: Mr Shanti Bhushan fought my PIL on Cogentrix  in the Supreme Court for six days and did not charge me any fee as he does not do so for any of the  PILs that he appears in. He also wrote the forward for my book. His life has been an inspiration to me.)

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar)