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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
S Asian judicial faults exposed
By Farhana Haider
BBC News South Asia editor

Supreme Court in Sri Lanka
The judiciary across South Asia is criticised
Corruption within South Asian courts prevents people getting fair treatment, while slowing economic growth, a top anti-corruption watchdog says.

A report by Transparency International (TI) indicates that the problem is rife within the region's judiciaries.

In India, it says, court corruption is increasing, as is political interference in the courts.

The report says that judicial corruption hits the poor hardest, as they end up having to pay for justice.

'Pliable' judges

The report gives the example in India of the acquittal in 2006 of nine people - including a prominent politician's son - allegedly involved in the murder of a young model, Jessica Lal.

The politician's son, Manu Sharma, is now serving a life sentence in prison for murdering Ms Lal, after the Delhi High Court in December overturned a previous acquittal by a lower court.

Pakistani lawyers protesting over the suspension of the country's chief justice
The report says everyone loses when justice is corrupted

The TI report calls for judges to be independent from governments and parliaments.

In Sri Lanka, the report says, judges who are perceived as problematic by the powerful have been reassigned from sensitive positions or had control of controversial cases transferred to more "pliable" judges.

The report points out that it can be equally problematic if judges are permitted to shelter behind outdated immunity or contempt laws - which, it says, happens in Pakistan and Nepal. It says that financial corruption is also a problem - in India more than one person in three who has come into recent contact with the judicial system said they had paid a bribe.

In Pakistan, the report says, bribery is rampant in the judiciary, which it said was ranked third among the country's most corrupt institutions.

In India and Bangladesh, the report says, lengthy adjournments force people to pay bribes to speed up their trials.

The report concludes that everyone loses when justice is corrupted, in particular the poor who are forced to pay bribes they cannot afford.

It says that when the judiciary is independent, a country's economic growth is significantly faster.

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