As it enters the last few months of its tenure, the government has woken up to a Bill, tabled in Parliament two years ago, allowing members of the public to directly complain against corrupt judges with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking a status report.
The Law Ministry on Tuesday told a parliamentary committee there had been no delay on its part in pushing the Bill as many cabinet ministers wanted “more time to study the final draft”.
“The Prime Minister's Office has directed the ministry to bring the Judges Inquiry Bill before the cabinet for clearance, so that it could be brought up in Parliament for discussion to allow it to be passed,” a senior ministry official told HT.
There has been little movement on Bill after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2006 even though the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice recommended sweeping changes in August last year.
The ministry has been denying that the Bill had been put on hold, but has come under fire for its “go-slow approach”, apparently to avoid confrontation with the judiciary.
The rethink on the Bill, which will also allow people to complain against misconduct by judges, comes after a spate of corruption allegations against Supreme Court and high court judges in recent days, including the multi-crore Ghaziabad treasury scam, allegedly involving 36 judges, and the Chandigarh cash-at-judge’s-door scam.
The ministry says the Bill hasn’t been shelved and majority of changes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice have been incorporated.
"Issues dominating the public debate in recent days including declaration of assets by judges have now been made mandatory in the final version. We have also accepted the suggestion to allow both the citizens and MPs to file complaints against corrupt judges," Law Minister H. R. Bhardwaj said.
In reply to a query by the parliamentary panel, the ministry said it had sent the Bill for cabinet’s approval in August, but it couldn’t be discussed as “many cabinet colleagues needed more time on a sensitive matter”.
Committee chairman E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said, “The justice department has said it was ready to put up the Bill in front of the cabinet. Let us see how soon they do it.”
The ministry, however, has declined to give a definite date.