The government on Thursday managed to get its major bill on judicial reforms passed in Lok Sabha, which seeks to debar judges of the Supreme Court and high courts from making oral observations against any constitutional authorities in open courts during the hearing of cases. Three months after he was forced to defer voting on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in the house, law minister Salman Khurshid got it through amid din over the Telangana issue.
One of the key features of the bill, incorporated following a recommendation of the parliamentary panel that examined it, is the issue of oral observations made by judges during hearing of cases.
“Misbehaviour means making unwarranted comments against conduct of any constitutional or statutory institution or any chairperson or officer in general, at the time of hearing matters pending or likely to arise for judicial determination,” states the bill.
Once the bill is cleared by Rajya Sabha, which is expected to take it up during the second half of the budget session when parliament meets after a three-week recess on April 23, this new law will treat oral comments by judges as “judicial misconduct”.
Another key feature of the bill is that it, for the first time, allows citizens to complain against corrupt judges and seeks to streamline the procedure for removal of judges.
The judicial standards bill seeks to replace the four-decade-old Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, which till now provided for removal of judges through impeachment by both houses of parliament.
"The essential contours of this bill are to replace the Judges Inquiry Act and the broad principles that are there in the Judges Inquiry Act are also contained in the contours of this bill," Khurshid said.
The new bill empowers the government to move an impeachment motion against a judge who would be found guilty by a high-level probe panel.
In his reply, which he was asked to lay on the table of the house, since slogan shouting members did not allow it to be completed, Khurshid told the members the government will soon come out with a blueprint to streamline the procedure for the appointment of judges.
The bill also makes it mandatory for judges to stay away from maintaining "close relations or close social interaction" with lawyers who practise in the same court.