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Working Paper

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We investigate whether judicial decisions are affected by career concerns of judges byanalysing two questions: Do judges respond to pandering incentives by ruling in favourof the government in the hope of receiving jobs after retiring from the Court? Does thegovernment actually reward judges who ruled in its favour with prestigious jobs? To answerthese questions we construct a dataset of all Supreme Court of India cases involving thegovernment from 1999 till 2014, with an indicator for whether the decision was in its favouror 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) whetherthe case is politically salient (exogenously determined by a system of random allocation ofcases) and 2) whether the judge retires with enough time left in a government’s term tobe rewarded with a prestigious job (date of retirement is exogenously determined by law tobe their 65th birthday). We find that pandering occurs through the more activechannel of writing favourable judgements rather than passively being on a bench that decidesa case in favour of the government. Furthermore, we find that deciding in favour of thegovernment is positively associated with both the likelihood and the speed with which judgesare appointed to prestigious post-Supreme Court jobs. These findings suggest the presenceof corruption in the form government influence over judicial decision-making that seriouslyundermines judicial independence.


Judicial decision-making, Corruption, Career concerns, Public sector incentives


Asian Studies | Ethics and Political Philosophy

Research Areas

Applied Microeconomics

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Singapore Management University

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.