A bill empowering people to complain against corrupt judges will remain a pipe-dream.
The government has shelved a move that would have made it mandatory for the judiciary to put in place a mechanism to probe corruption against judges for the first time.
Succumbing to pressure from its allies keen to avoid a confrontation with the judiciary, the UPA government has frozen the Judges Inquiry Bill for an indefinite period, highly placed government sources told HT.
The bill, which proposed to make it mandatory for the Chief Justice of India to form a committee to probe complaints of corruption and misconduct against judges, was to be placed before the cabinet last week, but was deferred.
At a time when the Supreme Court is struggling to constitute a probe panel into the multi-crore Ghaziabad provident fund scam in which 36 judges are allegedly involved, the government move is bound to raise eyebrows.
The PF scam is the first in the country where sitting judges from the district level to the Supreme Court were named as alleged beneficiaries. The fraudulent withdrawals of more than Rs 7 crore in the name of PF advances of class III and IV employees of Ghaziabad court were made between 2002-07.
The Law Ministry has denied that the government did not intend to go ahead with the bill, introduced in parliament in December 2006.
It was revised after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice recommended sweeping changes, including a declaration of wealth details by judges.
“We are committed to reform the judiciary to make it stronger and more transparent. The Judges Bill is ready from our side to be placed before the cabinet, after careful examination of all aspects, including the Standing Committee's recommendations,” Law Minister H. R. Bhardwaj said.
He, however, declined to comment on why the bill hadn’t been placed before the cabinet till now. He also refused to give a timeline for further progress.
The decision follows reservations expressed by at least three key UPA allies and some Congress leaders, reportedly not in favour of “any confrontation with the judiciary”, sources said.
The government's reluctance to proceed with the Judges Inquiry Bill now leaves the question of who would probe allegations of corruption against judges hanging.
Recently CJI K. G. Balakrishnan and Justice BN Aggarwal, the second most senior judge in the Supreme Court, refused to hear petitions demanding a high-level “impartial and unfettered” probe against judges named in the Ghaziabad scam case.
Their refusal follows allegations by senior lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan that the “Supreme Court was protecting corrupt judges.”