July 23, 2018 12:33:20 am
There is “at present no proposal” to bring a fresh Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill aimed at laying down judicial standards and establishing processes for removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
The Department of Justice said this in response to a query under the Right to Information Act (RTI) seeking to know the current status of the Bill.
The reply stated that the original Bill “was passed by Lok Sabha on 29.03.2012 but the Bill could not be taken up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha as Parliament was adjourned”.
Subsequently, “however, the Bill could not be considered and lapsed due to dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha”, the department said, adding, “at present there is no proposal to bring a fresh Bill”.
The 2010 version of the Bill had come in the wake of questions raised on conduct of judges of the higher judiciary and rising allegations of corruption against judges and sought to put in place a mechanism to make them more accountable.
The Bill proposed to make it mandatory for judges to declare their assets and liabilities and that of their spouses and children.
It called upon judges to follow certain standards of conduct. Any violation of these standards could lead to complaints to a proposed National Judicial Standards Oversight Committee.
Currently, the procedure for complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and High Court is governed by the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 under which only an MP can make such complaints through a motion presented in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
But the Bill sought to enable any person, besides MPs, to make a complaint to the proposed Oversight Committee.
It forbid the judges from contesting elections to any office of a club, society or other association or having close association or close social interaction with individual members of the Bar. It also forbid them from permitting any member of his or her family or other close relative who is a member of the Bar to appear before them or be associated in any manner with a cause to be dealt with by them. It also forbid them from entering into public debate or expressing views in public on political matters or on matters which are pending or are likely to arise for their judicial determination.
The Bill, however, met with resistance from a section of the legal fraternity which felt that it would compromise judicial independence.
The proposed law subsequently went into cold storage. However, the need for such a legislation once again came up for public debate following the January 12 press conference by four senior judges of Supreme Court in which they raised questions regarding the functioning of the apex court.
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