In addition to exposing and challenging judicial corruption, CJAR is advocating for asset declaration by judges and greater transparency in their appointments and transfers. “We want all court proceedings to be videotaped and perhaps even live-streamed online,” says Bhushan. “When Indian courts permit members of the public to physically come and watch their proceedings, why should this not be available to a wider audience?” It has been shown the world over that the simple and relatively inexpensive act of videotaping all proceedings ensures better practices being followed, be it in police stations, government offices or courts. CJAR is advocating for an amendment of the Contempt of Courts Act and for the formation of an independent commission with disciplinary powers over judges.
These steps will go a long way in improving the Indian judicial system. “Known for its progressive judgements, the judiciary has been responsible for making government functioning more transparent and accountable,” says Anjali Bhardwaj, member of the CJAR executive committee. “It’s time for the internal workings of the courts, such as judge appointments, to be made equally so…” CJAR’s patrons include senior retired judges, law professors, journalists and activists. It is endorsed by over 70 NGOs and civil society organisations across India. In fact, recently, some have expressed interest in forming state-level chapters of CJAR. But the doughty lawyer feels the road ahead will be long and rocky.
“Judicial reform hasn’t become a political issue yet,” Bhushan says. The need of the hour, he says, is a full-blown campaign demanding judicial accountability, on the lines of Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption. Limited by lack of funding, CJAR is unable to hire the full-time dedicated staff required to work on this. Bhushan, a busy lawyer, wears too many hats to focus exclusively on this campaign. What motivates him and other activists to carry on is their fervent belief that a strong judiciary is one of the most important features of a democracy. “It is the common people, not lawyers and judges, who are the stakeholders of the judiciary,” he says. “That’s why the demand for a transparent and accountable judiciary is not just coming from us at CJAR, but from every citizen in the country.”
Next up, the story of an organisation that has created networks of waste recyclers in an effort to reduce waste generated in urban areas