IN 1991, when Justice Markandey Katju embarked on his career as a judge in the Allahabad High Court, where three generations of his own family had served, he would have had little idea that 19 years later he would be criticising it. “There is something rotten in the Allahabad High Court,” he said from his vantage point of the Supreme Court.
An investigation by TEHELKA reveals eight judges from both the Allahabad High Court and the Lucknow Bench have their sons, brothers — and in one case father — working in the same court. The ninth judge — Justice Rakesh Sharma, whose judgement agitated Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra of the SC, retired in July.
Sharma’s son Shivam Sharma, a practising lawyer at Allahabad High Court, refuses to comment. “I’d not like to speak about it, thank you,” he said, hanging up the phone. Ravi Singh, whose father Justice Devi Prasad Singh is a sitting judge in the same court, also refused to answer questions. As did seven other lawyers related to judges.
RTI activist Nutan Thakur, who has filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court after Katju’s observation, is keen to see all the ‘uncle judges’ involved in corrupt practices exposed. “Not all judges are corrupt. So it is essential to know who is corrupt in order to restore faith in the judiciary,” she says.
But a senior official of the Lucknow Bench of the high court says, “You can never catch them through a paper trail. They never work directly in their father’s or uncle’s court. They operate through their juniors.”
However, CM Shukla, who has been practising in the Lucknow bench since the 1980s, says, “There have been cases of nepotism in the judiciary before. But we also have a history of honest judges, who never allowed their sons or daughters to practice in the same court.”
It’s now up to the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Ferdino Inacio Rebello to restore the court’s prestige.