Case must go on

The dispute about a CD purporting to contain recording of a conversation between the former Samajwadi Party politician Amar Singh and lawyer Shanti Bhushan has taken an ugly turn. Bhushan has moved the Supreme Court, asking for contempt of court proceeding to be initiated against Amar Singh. The reason? According to Bhushan, Singh is behind the CD, and he is "circulating" it in order to create a "malicious impression" that the SC bench that is hearing the cases surrounding the allocation of 2G telecommunications spectrum and also those dealing with the tapping of Amar Singh's phone could be "managed", to use the phraseology of the tape, by Shanti's son, and fellow lawyer, Prashant.

This is an unpleasant spectacle. Nobody who cares for the integrity of our systems will be happy to see the dignity of the courts being called into question in this manner. It is worth noting that insinuations against the judiciary were not made in the more responsible section of the mainstream media, which was wise enough not to touch a point that imperilled the sanctity of the judicial process; it emerged as part of strike and counter-strike in petty feuding for position. The SC in particular has taken the lead in clearing the mess surrounding the 2G licensing process, and it is of utmost importance that that process go on unimpeded. The swift and sure prosecution of that process is vital because the best cure for public anger at perceived corruption in high places is to see our investigative and judicial apparatus working to get at the truth and ensuring

justice and thus, closure. We believe the shoulders of our judges, and of our courts, are broad enough to carry this incident in their stride.

We need to, thus, ensure that this important work gets done, insulated as best as possible from the raucous, noisy, public mood, and the lashing out of a powerful few. The question of judicial independence, and the fine balance of independence and accountability, is a delicate one. Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia spoke on Sunday of a code of judicial ethics, in words that will have inspired all those who care about the integrity of India's institutions. The best response to that is to understand that the independence of the courts is an essential prerequisite for freedom and structural soundness, for the preservation of our liberties, for keeping a check on other institutions. Allowing the heat-and-dust of competitive politics even from the avowedly anti-political to compromise that independence is dangerous for our democracy.

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