English Vocab

A Question of Probity
On November 10, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of India, in a case concerning corruption arising out of certain judicial proceedings, declared that the Chief Justice is the master of the roster (a list or plan showing turns of duty for individuals or groups in an organization.) with the soleprerogative (a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class.) to determine which Bench of judges gets to hear which cases. That the Chief Justice, as the head of the judiciary, determines the roster is a platitude that pales in public
significance to the critical role of the Chief Justice as the embodiment of moral authority of the entire judicial system. This moral authority suffered a fatal blow when the Chief Justice chose to reassert his own administrative powers in the face of allegations concerning the possible lack of probity (the quality of having strong moral principles) of senior public functionaries. The situation demanded statesmanship — unfortunately the Court engaged in whataboutery, raising the spectre of contempt of court, only to drop it finally.
A criminal conspiracy
The genesis of this episode lies in the filing of petitions by Prasad Education Trust before the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court. The trust operated a medical college whose permission to run certain courses had been declined. Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy, P.C. Pant, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud heard the parties and passed several orders in the Supreme Court; Justices Narayan Shukla and Virendra Kumar-II passed an interim order in Allahabad High Court.
A simultaneous investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicated a possible criminal conspiracy to ensure a favourable judicial order in this matter. According to its FIR, two persons managing the affairs of the trust, approached a retired judge of Allahabad and Odisha High Courts, Justice I.M. Quddusi, through Sudhir Giri of the Venkateshwara Medical College (part of Venkateshwara University, in whose case another judgment had been passed by Justice Dipak Misra in the Supreme Court). Quddusi recommended the filing of a petition before the Allahabad High Court, in which partial relief was granted.
Subsequently, when the matter again reached the Supreme Court, the FIR reveals that Quddusi and his associates assured the trust of getting the matter “settled” in the Supreme Court through “their contacts” and engaged Biswanath Agrawala, a resident of Bhubaneswar. Agrawala claimed “very close contact with senior relevant public functionaries” and demanded significant gratification for settling the case. Quddusi, Agrawala and four associates have now been arrested for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Since the FIR indicated an attempt to fix a judicial proceeding, the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting that a Special Investigation Team under a retired Chief Justice of India be set up. This request was made since it was apprehended that leaving the investigation to the CBI might mean allowing the government to influence judges who would be brought under investigation.
The merits of such a request are a distinct matter. However, propriety would plausibly demand that since the FIR pertained to a case where Justice Misra had been the presiding judge, as Chief Justice of India, he would not perform his default role of allocating Benches for determination of this case or exercise his prerogative of hearing the case himself. Doing so would imply that the Chief Justice would not be “like Caesar’s wife (a person who is required to be above suspicion.)”, the puritanical (having or displaying a very strict or censorious moral attitude towards self-indulgence) standard of propriety the Court expects of public servants. The same principle would apply to any judge in the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court who had earlier participated in the proceedings. Recusal would not be an admission ofcomplicity; instead it would be an affirmation of the principle that justice not only be done but be seen to be done.
Diminishing propriety
Unfortunately, by allocating the matter to a Division Bench, the Chief Justice gave this principle a go-by (avoid or snub). It is moot (subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty.) whether the Bench entrusted by the Chief Justice would ensure justice or not — the critical point is that such a Bench chosen by the Chief Justice wascongenitally (from beginning) defective. This impropriety set off (begin) a chain of improper actions — filing of a second petition in the same matter, hearing of the second petition by Justice J. Chelameswar, the second-most senior judge of the Supreme Court, and an order by his Bench that the matter should be heard by five senior-most judges of the Court.
To be certain, devoid of context, each of these actions is improper. But the impropriety in these actions is technical and not substantive. That it is the prerogative of the Chief Justice alone to list matters and constitute Benches is a convention based on long practice. However, when doing so would cast a shadow of doubt on the process of justice delivery itself, it is not only proper but also necessary that this task is performed by another judge. The Court cannot stand on formality and sacrifice substantive justice for a vacuous (having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence) conception of prerogative power.
This episode of plausible administrative impropriety was unfortunately compounded by the Chief Justice constituting a five-judge Bench, including himself, to hear the matter on the judicial side. A resounding reiteration of the Chief Justice’s own powers to determine the roster, annulling the order of Justice Chelameswar and hearing supportive bystanders in the Court, were signs of a Court ignoring the need for justice to be seen to be done. Again, whether the right decision was reached or not is moot — a decision was reached in which the Chief Justice was unarguably judge in his own cause. That itself suffices to make this judgment bad in law.
Glasnost and perestroika
To blame one individual or another, or attribute motives for this episode would be to miss the wood for the trees (Cannot see, understand, or focus on a situation in its entirety due to being preoccupied with minor details.). Instead, there are two structural issues of consequence to anyone who cares about judicial integrity. First, the cardinal principle that the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster must be re-examined. Although there can scarcely be any argument against it as a tenet (principal) of judicial discipline, it would be naive to consider it an absolute principle of justice delivery.
In the U.K., Lord Chancellors had, for long, used the prerogative of Bench selection to serve partisan ends. As scholar Diana Woodhouse writes, Lord Halsbury wanted the power of trade unions reduced and selected Benches accordingly; Lord Hailsham chose Benches to constrict his colleague Lord Atkin’s ability to progressively interpret the law and Lord Loreburn’s cherry-picking of judges to reach favourable conclusions is well-known. The history of such abuse of prerogative led the U.K. to statutorily establish two leadership positions in the new Supreme Court — that of the President and the Deputy President, together with a professional registry and a Chief Executive. The unchecked power of the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches must be similarly circumscribed. Doing so does not amount to mistrusting the Chief Justice, but rather being cognizant of changing demands of accountability.
Second, much has been said of the indiscipline demonstrated by Justice Chelameswar’s Bench in listing a case and determining the Bench that hears it. Discipline lies at the heart of judicial functioning — its complex rules on filing, unwritten conventions of seniority, expected decorum in courtroom seating are all critical components to ensure institutional discipline. But a single-minded reiteration of such formal norms appearperverse (contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice.) when confronted with a case where the personal probity (the quality of having strong moral principles) of individuals in the judiciary is in doubt. If only to conclusively dispel such doubt, an independent investigation was warranted. This might well have been the logical conclusion of the technically improper order passed by Justice Chelameswar’s Bench listing the matter before the five senior-most judges.
For several senior members of the Bar to focus solely on this apparent impropriety while remaining blind to graver improprieties elsewhere and larger questions of probity is symptomatic (indicative) of a legal fraternity that steadfastly (in a resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering manner.) refuses to practice the values it preaches to others. Closing ranks and taking refuge in hidebound norms of propriety is like playing the proverbial fiddle, while pretending that public confidence in the judiciary is a gift that will keep on giving.
Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court wrote in respect of judicial appointments that a ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ is required if the system is to regain public confidence. If the moral authority of the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court is to be restored, something similar is needed urgently. Otherwise the Supreme Court will soon be a far cry from (be very different to.) the institution we all revere (respect).Some might say, it already is.

1. Prerogative (noun): (A right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class.)  (विशेषाधिकार)   
Synonyms: Entitlement, Exclusive Right, Privilege, Advantage, Perquisite, Authority.
Antonyms: Disadvantage, Drawback
Example: The president has the prerogative to declare a state of emergency when necessary.

2. Caesar’s wife (phrase): (A person who is required to be above suspicion.) (संदेह से परे होना/किसी व्यक्ति का)
Synonyms: Blameless, Guiltless, Inculpable, Irreproachable.
Antonyms: Guilty, Sinful, Blameful.
Example:  After my wife's scandal derailed my presidential bid, I understood whyCaesar's wife must be above suspicion. 

3. Puritanical (adjective): Having or displaying a very strict or censorious moral attitude./ practicing very strict moral or religious behavior. (सख़्त/नैतिकतावादी)
Synonyms: Priggish, Tight-Laced, Moralistic, Prudish.
Antonyms: Immoral, Corrupt.
Example: No one could make a decent grade in Ms. Prude’s class since thispuritanical teacher mandated every assignment to be perfect.

4. Congenitally (adverb): Existing since birth/ present from birth. (जन्म से/शुरुआत से)
Synonyms: Intrinsically Genetically, By Birth, From Beginning, Since Inception.
Example: Due to a congenital heart condition that ran in their family, the parents were worried about their unborn child.
Related words:
Congenital (adjective) - Constituting an essential characteristic (जन्मजात)
Origin: from con- ‘together’ + genitus (past participle of gignere ‘beget’) + -al.

5. Set off (phrasal verb): Begin a journey. / put in motion or move to act (शुरू करना/आरंभ करना)
Synonyms: Start Out, Set Forth, Sally Forth, Embark on , Begin.
Antonyms: Arrive, End, Finish, Complete.
Example: By scoring century in his debut match, the batsman set off his his career in a splendid way.  
Verb forms: Set off, Set off, Set off

6. Vacuous (adjective): (Having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence) (खाली/भावशून्य/असार)
Synonyms: Airheaded, Blank Minded, Inane, Stupid, Unintelligent.
Antonyms: Meaningful, Thinking, Intelligent.
Example: Although he had never been on an airplane, the old man could not resist making vacuous remarks about airline safety.
Related words:
Vacuously (adverb) - खोखले ढंग से
Vacuousness (noun) - भावशून्यता
Origin: from Latin vacuus ‘empty’ + -ous. 

7. Perverse (adjective): (Contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice.) (पथभ्रष्ट/विकृत)
SynonymsIrrational, Contradictory, Deviant, Anomalous
Antonyms: Compliant, Reasonable.
Example: Although I tried not to hold a grudge, I felt perverse joy when I learned my mean supervisor had been fired.
Related words:
Pervert (noun) - A person whose sexual behavior is regarded as abnormal and unacceptable.
Origin: from Latin pervertere, from per- ‘thoroughly, to ill effect’ + vertere ‘to turn’. 

8. Probity (noun):  The quality of having strong moral principles; (सत्यनिष्ठा)   
Synonyms: Integrity, Honesty, Uprightness, Decency, Morality, Rectitude
Antonyms: Corruption, Dishonesty, Partiality, Unfairness
Example: The person who returned the stolen necklace to the police showed a great deal of probity
Origin: from Latin probus ‘good’.

9. Steadfastly (adverb): (In a resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering manner.) (दृढ़तापूर्वक)
Synonyms: Resolutely, Firmly, Securely, Solidly, Staunchly. 
Antonyms: Loosely, waveringly. 
Example: The soldiers stood steadfast against the approaching enemy army.
Related words:
Steadfast (adjective) - Faithful to a person, belief, or goal

10. Revere (verb): Feel deep respect or admiration for (something). (सम्मान करना/आदर करना)
Synonyms: Respect, Venerate, Exalt, Regard, Deify
Antonyms: Abhor, Condemn, Criticize, Denounce, Despise, Detest
Example: River Ganga is revered in India.
Verb forms: Revere, Revered, Revered
Related words:
Reverence (noun) - सम्मान
Reverently (adverb) - आदर से
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