Wary of appearing to be pro-active on the issue of judicial accountability, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has directed the law ministry to consult top jurists before proceeding any further on the controversial bill.
Law Minister M Veerappa Moily is likely to begin consultations with at least three former chief justices of India (CJIs) next week on the proposed Judicial Standards and Accountability bill, 2010, following the PMO directive, HT has learnt.
Moily is understood to have approached former CJIs - Justice JS Verma, Justice MN Venkatachaliah and Justice N Khare for their views.
"More consultations are likely to follow since the PMO wants the judiciary on board on this sensitive issue. It is better to incorporate the views of concerned stake holders," said a highly placed source.
The proposed legislation, which for the first time seeks to allow citizens to complain against corrupt judges, was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM), after the cabinet declined to approve it on March 15.
The GoM, had on May 14, given its nod to the contentious bill, subject to the condition of removal of a section which provided for imposition of a minor penalty on a judge, whose misconduct was not found to be serious enough to recommend removal (impeachment).
The law ministry wants the proposed bill to replace the four decade-old Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, which provides for removal of a judge only through impeachment by Parliament.
The contentious provisions of the bill, which have raised eyebrows, include asking the citizens to reveal the source of information in their complaints against judges and providing for an effective control of the government in dealing with serving and retired judges found guilty of involvement in corruption and other acts of misbehaviour.
Moily, who had earlier termed the bill as "state of the art, which has been finalised after exhaustive studies and examination of such legislations existing across the world," was not available for comments.
He was keen to introduce the bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of parliament, but the PMO appears to have adopted a cautious approach. It is also learnt to be in favour of consulting CJI SH Kapadia.
The CJI reportedly met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but it is not known whether the issue was discussed in the meeting.