Bill on errant judges runs into more trouble | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Bill on errant judges runs into more trouble

delhi Updated: Jun 11, 2007 12:21 IST
Rana Ajit

MPs have once again objected to a bill for setting up an institutional mechanism to discipline errant judges of the Supreme Court and high courts on grounds that it would need an amendment to the Constitution and that it would further dilute the Parliament's power.

According to law ministry sources, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice Ministry failed to finalise its recommendations on the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006 during its meeting on Thursday.

The bill seeks to establish a National Judicial Council to probe allegations like corruption and inefficiency against judges of the higher judiciary. It ran into fresh trouble over a provision seeking to make an inquiry against a judge confidential and keeping it out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Ministry sources said several members of the panel questioned the rationale of making the investigation process confidential under Section 33 of the bill when even the process of appointment of judges falls within the ambit of RTI.

The bill already faces severe resistance from lawmakers in the panel for being "unconstitutional" because it provides that an impeached judge of the Supreme Court or a high court can challenge the president's order dismissing him in the apex court - a scenario even the constitution does not envisage.

Several experts, including eminent lawyer and former law minister Ram Jethmalani, have repeatedly questioned Section 30 of the bill, which provides: "A judge aggrieved by an order of removal passed by the President or the NJC ... may prefer an appeal in the Supreme Court."

Jethmalani had earlier said, "Section 30 is the most foolish provision of the bill."

On Thursday, several members of the panel reiterated that the bill could not be passed by parliament unless the constitution was amended.

Informed sources said members also opposed the bill saying that it would further dilute parliament's power when it came to dismissal of judges.

To sort out the objections and finalise a consensual recommendation to the government, the panel headed by Rajya Sabha member EMS Natchiappan has decided to convene one more meeting June 14.

The panel hopes to finalise its recommendations and submit them to parliament during the forthcoming monsoon session, which is likely to begin in the second or the third week of July.

The bill had been referred to the panel soon after the law ministry had introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha on December 19, 2006.