The government on Wednesday took a step towards allowing the people of the country to complain against corruption in the judiciary.
The Union Cabinet approved the Judges Inquiry (Amendment) Bill, 2008 on Wednesday, providing a last opportunity to the UPA government to make Supreme Court and High Court judges accountable to the public.
The move followed a directive by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Law Ministry to bring a Bill before the Cabinet, as was reported by HT.
The ministry would now table a fresh Bill in Parliament, and the previous Bill — introduced in December 2006 — now stands withdrawn. For two years, there had been no movement on the Bill.
“We have decided to include majority of the recommendations made by the Praliamentary Standing Committee on the Bill. Now the common people, as well as the MPs, would have a right to complain against corrupt judges,” a senior Law Ministry official said.
The fresh Bill would be in the form of an addition to the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968. Now, National Judicial Council, comprising Chief Justice of India and other senior judges, would scrutinise complaints against judges.
Earlier, the Standing Committee on Law & Justice had objected to the previous Bill and had asked the Law Ministry on Tuesday to inform it about the status of the Bill.
The new Bill, if passed in the coming House session, would make it mandatory for judges of higher judiciary to declare their assets.
“We are making the code of conduct for the judges compulsory. The Chief Justice of India would have powers to deal with errant judges,” Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj had told HT recently.
Standing Committee Chairman E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan welcomed the decision and hoped Parliament would pass the Bill in the coming session, which begins on October 17. “It (the Bill) has happened after a lot of effort. Let us hope the government can get it passed to empower the people to make judiciary more accountable.”
This is for the third time in last six years that a Bill to check corruption in judiciary is being introduced in parliament, Apart from 2006, the previous NDA government had also presented a similar Bill in 2003, but it lapsed as there was no progress till the Lok Sabha was dissolved a year later.