Why is judicial corruption invisible?

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Abstract

This article is a meditation on invisible crimes. Judicial corruption is rife in India: so say insiders including judges and ministers, lawyers, and litigants. Still, no superior judge has ever been convicted on corruption charges. Why? Scaffolded around the theory of invisible crimes, I introduce—and catalog—the key elements of an “economy of ignorance” that has veiled judicial corruption in India: a controlled information ecosystem; a monopoly over investigative and prosecutorial discretion; and the aggressive use of contempt powers. But the executive and legislative branches, media, and the knowledge sector also fuel that economy. Still, the invisibility is only imperfect. Occasionally, judicial corruption sagas do escape the economy and become public spectacles. Reasoning inductively from three case studies, I propose the idea of partially invisible crimes, assay its features, and assess what it reveals about the general state of judicial corruption in India. Mapped against global modes of judicial accountability, the Indian experience exposes the limits of the oft-prescribed self-regulatory model— judges screening complaints against fellow judges—and suggests that India is in the midst of a great experiment on social epistemology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Law Review
Volume33
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 15 Aug 2022

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