Top jurists, including a former Chief Justice of India (CJI) who was consulted by the government to finalise the draft of a bill to discipline judges, on Saturday slammed the proposed legislation terming it a “cosmetic exercise”.
Former CJI Justice JS Verma said the current draft of The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, currently being examined by a parliamentary panel required large scale changes.
“It does not provide adequate safeguards for honest judges nor has any provision been made to check the post retirement activities of judges which are closely connected with their conduct in service,” Justice Verma said at a seminar organised by the Bar Association of India.
Interestingly, Justice Verma was among the legal luminaries consulted by law minister M Veerappa Moily on the issue before the bill was introduced in Lok Sabha last year.
Going a step further, veteran constitutional expert, Fali S Nariman asked the government to scrap the bill, saying it would prove to be counter productive.
He strongly criticised the provisions of the bill which allow the common public to file complaints of corruption against judges. “Don’t give every Tom, Dick and Harry the right to complain. It should not be made that easy,” Nariman said.
· All inquiry proceedings against judges will be in-camera (secret)
· Five years imprisonment for the complainant in case the complaint
against a judge proves to be false.
· The scrutiny committee to look into complaints against judges will
comprise of only judges.
. It provides for scrapping of Judges Inquiry Act, 1968.
“Good judges in the country easily outnumber the bad eggs and therefore it is necessary to protect the judiciary’s independence. I feel this bill would discourage fearlessness among judges and should be dropped,” said the veteran jurist.
Nariman said he felt the existing provisions were sufficient to deal with corruption in judiciary and in place of fresh legislations the government should repeal the Judges Protection Act, 1985, “since such a protection was not required by the majority of judges.”
Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, who successfully argued the case declaring the CVC’s appointment illegal, disagreed with Nariman that the accountability bill was not required.
“The current text of the bill suffers from serious loopholes since the committees talked about in it are of the worst nature and this bill needs to be scrapped but an effective mechanism to check corruption in judiciary is certainly required,” Bhushan said.
Veteran jurist Anil B Devan said the bill in its current form was unacceptable. “It is a joke and needs to be drafted again but a fresh law is required,” he said.
Former Attorney General, Ashok Desai highlighted the need for setting up a judicial commission which would not only look into complaints against judges but also appointments and transfers.