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Cabinet nod for Judges Inquiry Bill
*Check on foreign funding * Pension for freedom fighters up
Tribune News Service

CJI declines comment

Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal tonight declined to comment on the draft Bill cleared by the Cabinet to bring transparency in the working of the higher judiciary.

“No comment,” was how Justice Sabharwal finally responded to journalists as he emerged from a national colloquium addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Parliament House annexe. — UNI

New Delhi, November 9
Amid perceived confrontation of the executive and legislature with the judiciary on certain crucial judgements delivered by the Supreme Court in the past two years, the Cabinet finally gave its approval to the Judges (Inquiry) Bill.

It is aimed at amending the 1968 Act to make the inquiries for any alleged misconduct against Supreme Court or High Court judges more “transparent”.

The Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006, approved by the Cabinet for introduction in Parliament during the coming winter session, however, exempted the Chief Justice of India (CJI), the constitutional head of judiciary, from the purview of the NJC, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told mediapersons after the Cabinet meeting.

Mr Chidambaram said in the inquiries against Supreme Court judges, the NJC would consist of the CJI and four senior-most judges of the apex court. For any probe against the High Court judges, it would comprise of the CJI, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and two Chief Justices of the High Courts, to be nominated by the CJI.

With the decision on the composition of the NJC in respect of Supreme Court judges, the government has virtually accepted the recommendation of former CJI R.C. Lahoti, who had objected to an earlier proposal for a uniform council for all judges. Mr Lahoti had said the inclusion of two High Court Chief Justices in the probe against the apex court judges would be violative of the protocol.

Though a perception had gained ground that the Bill was a fallout of the alleged confrontation of the executive and legislature with the judiciary in the wake of certain judgements delivered by the Supreme Court, the draft of the Bill would suggest that the government has little say in the NJC and its procedure as the matter has entirely been left to the judiciary.

The government’s view was that the amendment in the 1968 Act was required to bring “transparency in the functioning of the judiciary and also enhance its prestige”.

It said the Bill was aimed at “giving effect to some recommendations of the Law Commission contained in its 195th report” on amending the procedure for inquiry against apex court and High Court judges for any misconduct, which only provided impeachment proceedings on recommendations of 100 Lok Sabha and 50 Rajya Sabha MPs.

The Bill provides that a complaint can be made against a judge by any person to the NJC, which will initiate further action if prima facie case was made on preliminary scrutiny and verification of the material.

If the allegations are proved against the judge in question, the NJC will submit its report to the President, who has to forward it to Parliament for appropriate action, which includes removal for a major lapse.

While differentiating between serious lapses and minor ones against a judge, the “NJC itself will have power to impose minor measures where misbehaviour or incapacity does not warrant removal”.

The minor measures enumerated in the Bill include, issuing advisories, request for retirement, stoppage of assignment of judicial work for a limited time, warring, censure or admonition (public or private).

However, in a case of serious offence, where the matter was referred to the Speaker of Lok Sabha or Chairman of Rajya Sabha on a motion of removal, the NJC neither can impose minor measures, nor can recommend the same, the draft of the Bill says.

Meanwhile, In a move which could generate criticism from some quarters, the Cabinet cleared a Bill, which proposes to bar completely several organisations, including those of a “political nature”, from receiving foreign funds.

The new legislation, titled the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill, 2006, also proposes to prohibit any individual or organisation “indulging in communal tension or disharmony” or “conversion through inducement or force, either directly or indirectly, from one religious faith to another, from accepting foreign contribution.

In the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976, organisations which are political in nature were allowed to receive foreign contribution with prior permission..

The preamble of proposed law has been worded to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interests.

The additional types of groups or persons who will be barred from receiving foreign funding include organisations or associations or companies engaged in production or broadcast of audio news or audio-visual news or current affairs programmes through electronic mode or any other mode of mass communication. This also includes correspondents or columnists, cartoonists, editors, owners of associations or companies relating to mass communication.

However, amounts received from any foreign source as a fee or payment for services rendered would be excluded from the definition of foreign contributions, the new Bill proposes.

Administrative expenses could not exceed 50 per cent of foreign contributions and any expenses beyond that limit can be incurred only with the Central Government’s prior approval.

Information regarding foreign funding has to be shared in case security agencies have any suspicions, it says.

In order to maintain transparency, the proposed Bill includes a provision whereby an individual or an organisation will have to be informed about the grounds on which registration has been refused.

Meanwhile, freedom fighters and their spouses would now get an enhanced pension of around Rs 10,000 per month effective from October 2.

The basic pension of freedom fighters and the basic dependent family pension of spouses of deceased freedom fighters have been increased by Rs 2,330 per month.



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