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‘Don’t discourage lawyers from becoming judges’

Justice Bhandari says: New judicial bill will curtail judges’ freedom, prevent bright advocates from climbing up the ladder. Bhadra Sinha reports.

delhi Updated: May 14, 2012 00:01 IST
Bhadra Sinha

Even as Parliament prepares to clear the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which empowers people to lodge complaints against sitting Supreme Court and High Court judges, Justice Dalveer Bhandari — who has been appointed as a judge at the International Court of Justice — cautioned that it might discourage talented advocates from climbing up the judiciary ladder.

Justice Bhandari, the first Indian judge to get a full six-year term at the ICJ in the Hague since Independence, said, “Talented lawyers nowadays don’t opt for the bench because they do not want their social freedom curtailed, or lose out on the financial front,” he said.

The bill, which provides for a mechanism to probe complaints of misbehaviour by judges, was passed by Lok Sabha in March this year. Rajya Sabha is yet to take it up.

Justice Bhandari defended the much-criticised collegium system of appointing high court and supreme court judges, introduced by the apex court through a judgment in 1993, stating that the allegations of non-transparency were a misnomer.

“The procedure involves a thorough scrutiny of the candidate at various stages,” he said, adding that under the collegium system, a panel of senior judges — including the Chief Justice of India — clears the appointment of judges, and the government hardly has any say in the process.

When asked to comment on the pendency of over three crore cases, Justice Bhandari blamed the executive for failing to allocate funds to improve manpower and infrastructure. Despite having an advanced legal system, the country spares just 2% of its annual budget on the judiciary, he said, adding that poor judge-population ratio and lack of infrastructure were responsible for the mess.

“In the United States and the United Kingdom, there are 110 judges per million people. In India, we have only 10.5 judges for the same number of people,” Justice Bhandari said.