The Government does not want the people to complain against the Chief Justice of India. The proposed body being set-up to investigate the allegations of corruption and misbehaviour against judges would not have the powers to probe the charges against the CJI.
“The proposed National Judicial Council (NJC) would be empowered to investigate and inquire into the allegations of misbehaviour or incapacity of Supreme Court and High Court judges, excluding the CJI,” the Law Ministry informed the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
The NJC, a main feature of the Judges (Inquiry) Amendment Bill, 2008, would be headed by the CJI with two seniormost judges of the Supreme Court and two High Court Chief Justices as its members.
The Bill, approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this month, allows the people of the country to file written complaints to the NJC against the judges indulging in wrongdoings.
The government decision to keep the CJI out of the purview of the NJC has drawn a sharp reaction from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law & Justice.
“We fail to understand why the government is treating the CJI as a holy cow. We had categorically recommended that he should be covered by the NJC. By keeping the CJI on a higher pedestal, a wrong signal is being sent,” committee chairman, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said.
“In case a complaint was received against the CJI, the correct course would have been for him to recuse himself from the council, till his name was cleared,” he said.
The Law Ministry is of the view that the CJI should be given primacy in matters related to discipline in the judiciary, and other remedies were available in case there were allegations of a serious nature against him.
Explaining how the NJC would function, Union Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said in a written reply: “In case the council finds the charges of misbehaviour or incapacity to be proved against a judge, which do not warrant his removal, it may impose corrective measures. If the council concludes that the charges warrant the removal, then it shall advise the President accordingly.”
He said the President shall then place the NJC findings along with the accompanying material before Parliament, which would then follow the procedure to impeach a judge, in cases of serious allegations which were proved beyond doubt.
Bhardwaj said the NJC would be empowered to issue a code of conduct containing guidelines for conduct and behaviour of judges.