Close on the heels of the Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan’s attempts to clean up the higher judiciary, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday called for introspection on judges’ appointments.
“The time has come for introspection to ensure that judicial appointments at all levels live up to the exacting standards we associate with the name of Justice Bhagwati,” Singh said after releasing a book Judicial Reflections of Justice Bhagwati.
The statement was in opaque reference Justice Balakrishnan’s recommendation for impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta HC for alleged misconduct and the unprecedented move to permit the CBI to question two sitting judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court in a corruption case.
“People judge an institution by what it does, and how it impacts their life,” Singh said in the presence of the CJI, Law Minister HR Bhardwaj, several other cabinet colleagues and Justice Bhagwati.
He said, “Perceptions are formed about efficiency, fairness, honesty and integrity and about competence and compassion. These perceptions cannot be willed. They are shaped by experience, by hearsay and by public debate and discourse.
He said, “But there is no doubt that the personal record and reputation of those who sit in judgment does shape our view of the judicial system.”
Justice Bhagwati said, “Judges should maintain their independence and they should be completely aloof from all allurements, including money.” On judiciary encroaching legislative functions, he said, “then even if it involves interfering with the legislature or with the order of the executive, I think the courts are entitled to do so and they ought to do so.”