Legal Blog: "Nothing Wrong with Kin Practising in a Judge’s Court": Justice Mudgal

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Nothing Wrong with Kin Practising in a Judge’s Court": Justice Mudgal

Justice Mukul Mudgal

But undue favours should not be offered to relatives, says the outgoing chief justice

The concept of “uncle judges, per se, is not bad”, said Justice Mukul Mudgal, who retired today as Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. He said the rot begins when a relative of a judge “starts receiving short cuts or leg-ups”.

“There is nothing wrong in relatives of a High Court judge practising in the same High Court as long as undue favours are not offered to the relatives, and a judge should go out of the way to ensure that no relative of his is misusing his/her name,” Justice Mudgal said in an interview with The Indian Express. He added that “corruption needs to be tackled decisively”.

The outgoing chief justice remarked that, “With India being a place where a father likes his child to join his own profession, having one’s relatives practising in the High Court, per se, is not bad.”

He added, “There is a perception that relatives of a judge become recipients of certain privileges. Of course, there are advantages. If my son is entering into classical music, he certainly will have an advantage over others. But this is only at an initial stage.”

On the issue of corruption in the lower judiciary, Justice Mudgal said, “Corruption is a reflection of a society. To say that there is no corruption is wrong. It is difficult to handle, but it needs to be tackled decisively. Not only monetary, there are other forms of corruption, which include corruption of friendship”.
It might be mentioned here that during his tenure, at least nine lower court judges, including two Session Judges, were terminated from service or were asked to seek premature retirement. Those shown the door included a senior Sessions Judge whose name was recommended for High Court judgeship in 2007.

Justice Mudgal had come down heavily on the Haryana government for its failure in curbing the rising menace of “honour killing” by Khap Panchayats. Feeling strongly for the runaway couples, who are being murdered ruthlessly by the self-styled law enforcement agencies, Khap Panchayats, to keep intact the “honour” of their traditions, Justice Mudgal is of the view that senior leaders of Khaps need to be educated.

“Such institutions (Khaps) may have had a social purpose. Earlier, when life was conventional, Khaps may have played a vital role in shaping lives of individuals. But now with media being in every household you cannot expect a society to remain in isolation. Khap Panchayats can have their traditions but cannot frame laws. Honour killing is a murder, nothing else. We are a developed democracy. There is need to educate seniors/leaders of Khaps. Tradition should not be rigid. The way of life has changed, there should be respect for elders. While one should honour his traditions, Khaps need to adjust values. They cannot enforce values by way of coercion,” he said.

Asked if there is a divide within the High Court judges over certain issues, he responded, “With a High Court of a strength of as large as 48 judges, there is bound to be a diversion of opinions. One has to ensure that they do not turn ugly, it should only remain a healthy debate. Differences are debated and a decision is taken”.

On the issue of ever-increasing pendency in courts, he said, “The pendency of this High Court has come down considerably. Last year, the disposal of cases was much more than the filing. The judges have put in extra effort in not only dispensing with cases but also awarding justice”.

The only lawyer-turned-judge in the family, Justice Mudgal best describes himself as a “cricket freak”. Mudgal is son of late Pandit Vinay Chandra, Padmashree. His son Dhaval Mudgal is the lead singer of a rock band named “Half Side Down” in Delhi.

From implementation of speed governors in the states of Punjab and Haryana for all heavy vehicles to building of protection homes for runaway couples; reservation for handicapped employees; awarding significant compensation to victims of crime and those murdered by Khap Panchayats; suo motu notices against the state for high-handedness and inaction were some of the key developments which took place during his tenure.

“I owe a lot to my school, Modern School, Delhi. My teachers taught me to face life, success and adversities.” He says, after retirement, he will do social work and, if required, arbitration cases.

Justice Mudgal retired on 04.01.2011 and is replaced by Ranjan Gogoi as the Acting Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

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