Keep the Judiciary Intact
News broke out towards the end of last week to the effect that some individuals would have conspired to influence a judicial decision regarding betting on football matches. According to copies of emails exchanged, it was made to appear as if two judges’ secretaries, one attorney and a barrister, amongst others, would have been involved in a plot to get judges who were hearing the case in this connection to decide in favour of the party that would allegedly have paid up bribes to the secretaries to get decisions expedited. Police has been investigating the matter and, in the process, it has placed suspected protagonists involved in the case under arrest. All this is normal.
The Chief Justice himself, when placed in the presence of the information that some members of the judicial personnel could have been involved in bribe-taking in the case, immediately reacted by inviting the informant to lodge a statement with the police. Our system provides that nobody is above the law but that people are presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. All this is based on a sound principle inasmuch as the system is not immune even from manipulation and fabrication of evidence to embarrass adversaries. We must wait.
This matter which amounts to a serious breach of duty at individuals’ level, if proved, needs to be fully investigated first, then put to the test of evidence and cross examination in court to determine what exactly went wrong, if at all. We are not yet at this stage. Still, this case is being held up on private radios and in part of the written media to make it appear as if the judicial system itself would be tainted with corruption. Nothing justifies the amalgamation, generalisation and jumping to conclusions of the sort about the judicial system. There could possibly be a few black sheep in the personnel but even that would not justify passing a blanket negative judgment on the judicial system as a whole and publicize it as if it were a fact.
It seems it suffices that there should be one or two stray examples of possible malfeasance in any segment of activity for certain parties in the country to cast aspersion on the whole lot. It serves no purpose to undermine confidence in one of the key pillars – the judiciary — of our democratic set-up. We are certainly a far cry from those regimes in some countries which deliver summary justice at the whims and caprices of dominant ruling classes of those countries. Eminent and brilliant personalities have over a long stretch of time during the existence of our judicial system, bequeathed to it a legacy of solid credentials which their successors at the helm of the judicial system have lived up to with distinction of their own. Our judicial system has an excellent international standing, with various of its serving and retired members being called upon from time to time to share their competence in other jurisdictions.
It is therefore a duty imposed upon all responsible citizens to maintain and nurture the element of trust which our judicial system has earned for itself over centuries. Evidently it behoves upon the judiciary to keep its house in order so as to live up to the lofty expectations people place on it. But the work of demolition of its good standing is not only counterproductive towards promoting the efficient working of our judicial system. It is also something that has the potential to sap the confidence citizens and international companies dealing with us have in one of our critical institutions in the democratic set-up. When a person speaks about the judicial system of a place like London or Singapore, it is looked up to with a sense of awe and deep respect. No one will dare speak about it except in very lofty terms. This should be reason enough for us not to devalue ours by having recourse to wholesale generalisations if our ambition is to ultimately join the league of respected nations of the world.
* Published in print edition on 19 July 2013