Jobs for Justice(s): Corruption in the Supreme Court of India

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We investigate whether judicial decisions are affected by career concerns of judges by analysing two questions: Do judges respond to pandering incentives by ruling in favour of the government in the hope of receiving jobs after retiring from the Court? Does the government actually reward judges who ruled in its favour with prestigious jobs? To answer these questions we construct a dataset of all Supreme Court of India cases involving the government from 1999 till 2014, with an indicator for whether the decision was in its favour or not. We find that pandering incentives have a causal effect on judicial decision making. The exposure of a judge to pandering incentives in a case is jointly determined by 1) whether the case is politically salient (exogenously determined by a system of random allocation of cases) and 2) whether the judge retires with enough time left in a government’s term to be rewarded with a prestigious job (date of retirement is exogenously determined by law to be their 65th birthday). We find that pandering occurs through manipulation of actual decisions in favour of the government, and actively through writing favourable judgements rather than passively being on a bench that decides a case in favour of the government. Furthermore, we find that the government is more likely to give prestigious post-Supreme Court jobs to judges who ruled more often in its favour in politically salient cases. These findings suggest the presence of corruption in the form government influence over judicial decision-making that seriously undermines judicial independence. Keywords: judicial decision-making, corruption, career concerns, public sector incentives.

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