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Did judges force govt hand on accountability bill?

The government appears to have shied away from a confrontation with the higher judiciary by deferring a bill that proposed introduction of measures to check corruption.

delhi Updated: Mar 16, 2010 23:57 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The government appears to have shied away from a confrontation with the higher judiciary by deferring a bill that proposed introduction of measures to check corruption.

Many judges of the Supreme Court and chief justices of some high courts were reportedly not happy with the government move to push the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, HT has learnt.

The reservations among the judges were communicated to the government at the top level “through informal channels”, highly placed sources said.

“Media reports suggested the proposed bill included provisions to make the code of conduct binding on us, it cannot be imposed on judges from outside,” said a high court chief justice.

Chapter II of the bill, titled – Judicial Standards to be followed by judges, lays down 14 do’s and don’t’s for judges, mentioned in its Section 3.

A view shared by many judges is that some of the provisions amounted to “interference in the independence of the judiciary.”

The cabinet, in its meeting on Monday, had declined to approve the bill and referred it to a Group of Ministers for further scrutiny following differences between senior ministers.

At the meeting, a minister is learnt to have objected to a provision on imposition of “minor penalties” on judges not found guilty of serious misconduct.

The bill provides for setting up an Oversight Committee, headed by the Rajya Sabha chairman, with two judges and two distinguished jurists as its members to probe allegations of misconduct and corruption.

“If the Oversight Committee on receipt of the probe report is satisfied that all or any of the charges have been proved, but do not warrant removal of the judge, it may issue advisories or warnings or order withdrawal of judicial work or ask the judge to voluntarily retire or censure him,” says section 34 of the bill.

“Either a judge is guilty or not guilty, there cannot be anything in between,” a minister is believed to have said, asking for a fresh look at the section.

The jinxed bill, hanging fire since 2003, provides for a series of panels to probe allegations against judges before an impeachment motion is introduced.