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India high court judge withdraws from corruption case

[JURIST] An Indian Supreme Court judge on Friday withdrew from hearing a judicial bribery case [IANS report] after lawyers accused the court of protecting corrupt judges. Justice B.N. Agrawal [official profile] said that he refused to consider unsubstantiated accusations against the court, adding that the behavior of the accusers, former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan [Rediff interview] and his son Prashant Bhushan [Outlook archive], was "contemptuous" toward the court. Two other high court justices declined to step down, and Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan [official profile] will decide how the case will proceed without Agrawal. The case at issue involves allegations that judges embezzled 70 million Rupees from the Ghaziabad district court treasury between 2001 and 2007. Calcutta News has more.

In April, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] called for the establishment of special courts [JURIST report] to deal specifically with corruption charges. Balakrishnan later told reporters that Singh did not mean that the judiciary itself was corrupt, but rather that it has to deal with a large number of cases brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation [official website]. In response to questions about checks against possible judicial corruption, Balakrishnan told reporters that Supreme Court [official website] justices are required to submit an accounting of their assets when they assume their post and to amend that accounting when they acquire new property. He also said that because justice positions are constitutional rather than governmental, this asset list and some other information on the justices were not publicly available through India's Right to Information Act [RTI materials], but that the Indian Parliament [official website] did have the power to enact laws requiring more judicial accountability if they chose to.

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