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Chief justice vows war on corruption

New Delhi, Nov. 26: Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti today warned that corruption among judges would not be tolerated.

Steps to train judges to achieve a high degree of professionalism and competence would help rid the judiciary of corruption, Justice Lahoti said in his Law Day address on the Supreme Court premises.

November 26 is commemorated as Law Day every year.

The chief justice said that in 2004 alone, 31 members of the subordinate judiciary were denied extension of service beyond the age of 58 and 79 were either dismissed, removed or compulsorily retired. 'These actions have already sent ripples and fence-sitters have commenced mending their ways,' he observed.

One of the 'better ways' of preventing corruption in the judiciary was by 'achieving a high degree of competence and professionalism through continuing education, learning and training ' each programme associated with lessons in ethics and morality so as to make it a part of the personality of occupants of the judicial office ' and at the same time initiating timely, quick and strict action against the corrupt, indolent and deadwood', he observed.

However, Justice Lahoti did not 'subscribe to the view that corruption has eaten into the roots of the Indian judicial system'. 'Casual aberrations or isolated incidents cannot be pressed into service for branding the institution as corrupt. Wherever corruption has shown its face, it is because we have failed in taking timely steps for preventing such incidents,' he said.

The chief justice said 'great caution should be exercised while appointing a judge so that the decision would not be regretted at a later stage'.

Justice Lahoti today revealed his poetic bent of mind by using verse to explain the role of the Supreme Court. He began with a poem in which the poet asks the Sun God why there is so much darkness of ignorance and evil despite his radiance. The anguished god replies: 'How long can I fight for your cause' At some point of time, those suffering should do something to dispel the clouds of darkness.'

The chief justice quoted from a poem about parachutists to emphasise timely action. 'It does not mean a thing' if you don't pull a string. Many of us are like a closed parachute ' possessed with great abilities but failing to pull the string of realisation,' he said.

Justice Lahoti also criticised a section of the media for its coverage on corruption in the judiciary. The media reported 'the symptoms of negativity' and the newspapers were ignoring the 'positive achievements of the judiciary', he asserted.

'The media has to remember that judiciary is the last resort of the common people and if people lose faith in the judicial system, the entire democratic set up may crumble,' the chief justice said.

Justice Lahoti said 2005 would be the Year of Excellence for the judiciary and quoted Homer: 'Always to be best and to be distinguished above the rest.'

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