The Union cabinet on Monday put in deep freeze a controversial bill which sought to allow citizens to complain against corrupt judges on the condition that the source of information be revealed.
After a discussion of around 45 minutes, the cabinet declined to give approval for The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, and referred it to a Group of Ministers (GoM), for scrutiny of the sensitive subject, HT has learnt.
The Law Ministry, which had drafted the bill, wanted to replace the four-decade-old Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, with the proposed new bill, which would have allowed the government to take a final decision on corrupt judges.
Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, all lawyers, expressed reservations about some provisions of the bill, sources said.
Doubts were raised about chapter II of the bill, which proposed to make a code of conduct compulsory for the judges of the Supreme Court and 21 High Courts in a list of 14 do’s and don’ts for them.
The prevailing view was that the code of conduct “dug deep into the judges autonomy” and the best course would be to leave it to the judiciary to regulate itself.
Other flaws included the quantum of punishment for a judge. The bill proposes that judges can be warned, taken off work or censured, depending upon the misconduct. For a serious violation, the judge can also be impeached. There was also disagreement on whether the 1968 Act should be repealed entirely.
The bill, which has been hanging since 2003, provides for a series of committees to probe allegations against judges before an impeachment motion is introduced in Parliament.