Welcome amendments in Judicial Accountability Bill; but required more

SUBHASH CHANDRA AGRAWAL

It refers to welcome initiative of Union government to delete provision in ‘The judicial Standards and Accountability Bill’ which was to restrict judges to comment on constitutional authorities. It is an established and well known fact that judiciary has been more than effective by making strict-most strictures also against legislature and those in legislature which presently are deep rooted in our corruption-prone system lacking morality. Bill should also make retirement-age for High Court judges same as that of Supreme Court judges to utilise full services of honest and deserving judges till the ultimate retirement age to remain in judiciary, though at High Courts. Provision will abolish lobbying to reach Supreme Court just for increasing tenure in judicial life.

However lengthy procedure with various channels in between like Scrutiny Panel, Oversight Committee, Presidential reference, Parliamentary Committee and then cumbersome Parliamentary procedure to get rid of guilty-found judges with penal provision for complainants will provide no reform other than to frighten those making even genuine complaints against judges. There are sufficient existing provisions to take care of frivolous complaints that too with provision in-camera proceedings for probing complaints. Only remedy is to set up a permanent National Judicial Commission (replacing both Scrutiny Panels and Oversight Committees) with retired Supreme Court judges as its member-nominees of the President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Chief Justice of India, Bar Council with Chief Vigilance Commissioner as ex-officio member.

Commission’s recommendations should be final and sufficient for President of India to order removal of guilty-found judges apart from confiscating wealth and assets of such judges and their family-members. Rather such high-powered Commission should be empowered to recommend judges for High Courts and Supreme Court. Even all judicial panels and commissions formed by Union or state governments should be constituted by such a National Judicial Commission to ensure impartial and unbiased investigations. Presently political rulers appoint retired judges of their own choice and ideology to get a rubber-stamp endorsement of their working by a judicial panel. All judges in High Courts should be compulsorily appointed from outside their home-states to effectively check approaches and influences on locally-appointed High Court judges through their relations and former bar-colleagues. There should be provision for video-recording of courts’ proceedings for multiple advantages including speedy and fairer courts’ proceedings.

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