Justice VS Sirpurkar, who retired from the Supreme Court on August 19, said corruption in the judiciary was a problem. He also supports the idea of a National Judicial Commission (NJC) to appoint or remove judges.
"As chief justice of two high courts (Madras and Calcutta), I faced great difficulty in convincing good lawyers to join the Bench. It's time we pondered over it (NJC). This will help attract talent to the Bench," justice Sirpurkar, who initiated an in-house inquiry against justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court, told HT.
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill introduced by the UPA government in Lok Sabha last year does not have a provision for an NJC.
On whether the collegium system of appointment of judges working since 1993, had led to falling standards in the judiciary, Justice Sirpukar said, "This (collegium system) is the law. Let the government change it."
"We need a strong mechanism to appoint judges. Though we still have one, we need to introduce more safeguards. It's unfortunate that those who appointed Justice Sen overlooked his misconduct. I was saddened to see parliamentarians painting the judiciary black during the impeachment debate," said Justice Sirpukar.
He admitted that recent events, including the impeachment proceedings against justice Soumitra Sen, had tarnished the higher judiciary's image.
He supported minor measures such as withdrawal of work from an erring judge proposed in the bill. On corruption in the judiciary, he said, "Yes, there is a problem, especially in the lower judiciary. But you must remember corruption always trickles down from the top."
He also advocated life sentence for those found guilty of corruption. "Corruption would be curbed if life imprisonment is made the maximum sentence for those found guilty," he added.
Justice Sirpurkar also suggested that provision of bail should not be available to a person accused of corruption. "The burden to prove innocence should be on the accused."
Some days before his retirement, Justice Sirpukar upheld a CBI prosecution against the two Chautala brothers in a disproportionate assets case. What baffled him was the time taken by CBI to launch prosecution in such cases. "Probes into disproportionate assets cases must be time-bound," he said.