V ESHWAR ANAND
Moily must strive for a threadbare debate on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill
AS the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, there is a need to streamline it in 2011 and restore people’s faith in the system. The first priority, of course, is to tackle judicial corruption. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, tabled in the Lok Sabha amid din, should be debated threadbare in the Budget session of Parliament.
A debate is imperative because the Bill, in its present form, is riddled with too many drawbacks. The time limit given to various committees to dispose of the complaints against judges (three months for the National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC); three months for the scrutiny committee; six months plus another six months, if necessary, for the investigation committee) is too long and it would be difficult for the NJOC to expedite a probe against a judge under a cloud. Why not get a complaint expedited in just three months?
As for the scrutiny committees’ role, it may be difficult for sitting judges to dispassionately decide a case against a fellow judge. The composition and tenure of the investigation committee also remains undefined, triggering fears that laymen may sneak into this panel. It may also create an atmosphere of secrecy. The idea of “minor punishment” is unworkable.
The judges’ selection is another priority concern. The focus should be on selecting men and women of impeccable credentials and high integrity. Of course, the Centre needs to tread with caution because the Constitution needs to be amended for scrapping the present collegium system. The Centre may be inclined to revert to the pre-1993 system for selecting judges. But the judiciary may resist any change that gives primacy to the executive on this issue. It may be recalled that in 2009, former CJI Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had rejected a Law Ministry proposal for a new procedure for selecting judges.
The Supreme Court should function only as a Constitution Bench in New Delhi. To help people better, there is a need to decentralise its role by setting up four Regional Benches in New Delhi, Chennai or Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. The Law Commission has recommended it and this also has the constitutional sanction under Article 130.
Reforms in the Bar are long overdue. An All-India Entrance Test for students of law for practicing in the Bar is a good initiative. Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily’s proposal for a National Commission for Higher Legal Education and Research merits a fair trial. The Legal Practitioners (Regulation and Maintenance of Standards in Profession, Protecting the Interest of Clients and Promoting the Rule of Law) Bill, 2010, is also sound because it seeks to make advocates accountable for their actions.
Chief Justice of India S. H. Kapadia should take steps to implement his three-track mechanism to clear the huge backlog of cases. Measures such as extending office hours, filling vacancies, appointing retired judges and senior advocates as judges, evening courts and making best use of the alternative dispute redressal mechanism will all help reduce the backlog.
- Corruption in judiciary: Time for action (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- At Stake, Your Honour (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Judicial Accountability Bill introduced in Lok Sabha (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Justice KGB’s resignation is a moral imperative (indialawyers.wordpress.com)