Judicial accountability move yet to take off
Nine years after Supreme Court judges agreed on a mechanism to probe complaints of corruption and misconduct against members of the higher judiciary, the apex court says it has no such powers.
Documents available with HT show that in a meeting attended by 19 judges of the apex court in December 1999, it was decided to adopt an in-house procedure “for taking suitable remedial action against judges, who by their acts of omission or commission do not follow the universally accepted norms of judicial life to set high standards of accountability”.
The report recommended that a High Court Chief Justice be empowered to set up a three-member committee of judges to enquire into any serious complaint against a fellow judge.
Similarly, the report said the Chief Justice of India should be empowered to constitute a three-member panel of judges to probe any serious complaint against a colleague.
However, the Supreme Court has now taken a contrary stand on the issue.
“Neither the Supreme Court nor the Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority in respect of judges of superior courts, including judges of High Courts,” the apex court said in response to an RTI application by a Delhi resident.
Said former CJI JS Verma, “By such lapses, the judiciary is only making itself vulnerable to political interference. Judges should have been the first in the country to have implemented measures for setting high standards of public life. I am shocked at this lapse.”
Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice EM Sudarsana Natchiappan said the development could have serious implication on the Judges Inquiry Bill (2006), which is pending before Parliament.
“We recommended that an empowered committee should be there to look into complaints against judges of the higher judiciary since the in-house procedure had failed to take off,” he said.