A day after the Union Cabinet approved a Bill to allow people to complain against corrupt judges, the government said the move had become necessary due to the judiciary’s failure to check rising corruption.
The government had given the judiciary sufficient time to put in place a mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption against the judges, but it was not done, Law Minister H. R. Bhardwaj told HT.
“We want an independent and fearless judiciary respected by the public, but serious allegations against judges in recent days have severely dented its image. It is the right time to introduce the Judges Inquiry (Amendment) Bill in Parliament,” Bhardwaj said.
“We are also not in favour of any external interference in probes against judges. But the Ghaziabad and Chandigarh cases show the judiciary itself has accepted it cannot inquire into corruption allegations,” the Minister said.
The Bill, based on the experience of the Canadian Judicial Council, would make it mandatory for the National Judicial Council to entertain complaints of misconduct and corruption against Supreme Court and High Court judges, filed by the public, he said.
“This council would be headed by the Chief Justice of India and senior judges would be its members. Like in Canada, they would deal with allegations against judges and the enforcement of the code of conduct for serving judges.”
Asked whether the government was hopeful of getting the Bill passed in the forthcoming Parliament session , beginning October 17, he replied: “Had we not been confident, why would we have announced withdrawal of the previous Bill and its replacement with the new one.”
The Bill would make mandatory a code that includes declaration of wealth details of judges and their family members.
“They should not indulge directly or indirectly in any business and no practising lawyer who is related to them should either reside with them or practise in the court where they sit,” the minister said.
The code of conduct for judges also states they would not associate themselves with any fundraising campaign, would stay away from any public function attended by politicians and would not accept gifts.
In the United States and Canada, judges declare any gifts received by them, but in India the judiciary has so far resisted even the declaration of assets.
Bhardwaj said the NJC would initially deal only with SC and HC judges. “After some time, the High Court Chief Justices could be considered as monitoring judges for lower courts in their states,” the minister said.