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Govt open to giving more powers to CJI
S.S. Negi
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 26
Law Minister Hans Raj Bharadwaj has said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has no objection to enact a law to give more powers to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to deal with “errant” judges in the wake of certain recent incidents, but it entirely depends upon such a proposal coming from the Supreme Court collegium.

“This (growing incidents of alleged misconduct of judges) is a burning problem and the process of impeachment is very cumbersome. If the CJI feels that he should have more powers, he should consult the collegium and send a proposal to the government by its collective resolution,” Mr Bharadwaj told a press conference here today.

“If the collegium feels that a legislation is required in this regard, it should send the proposal in writing and we will place it before Parliament for discussion,” Mr Bharadwaj said after his attention was drawn to the recent incidents of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, when 25 of its judges had gone on mass protest leave, and allegations of “misconduct” against Karnataka and Rajasthan judges.

But the Law Minister made it clear that the government had no role to interfere in the affairs of the judiciary, saying that under the system “it is the prerogative of the collegium to discipline, punish or take any other required action against the judges”.

As his attention was drawn to the statements of former Chief Justice V.N. Khare, who after relinquishing office recently had said that lack of power with the CJI had caused hurdles in dealing with errant judges, Mr Bhardwaj said: “Unfortunately such incidents had occurred only in recent past. When I was the Law Minister earlier, I had dealt with at least 12 CJIs and none of them had ever said that the system of in-house procedure of collegium taking care of such issues was inadequate.”

On the question of Punjab and Haryana High Court judges’ protest leave, he said: “Certainly it was a different kind of situation.”

When asked whether any proposal was ever mooted by the apex court collegium to transfer some of the judges from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mr Bharadwaj said: “I have no knowledge of it.”

He, however, said the transfer was not the solution of the problem. Neither did he approve of the proposal of the National Judicial Commission, saying that the powers of the President, the CJI and the Chief Justices of the high courts regarding appointment and transfer of judges as guaranteed in the Constitution could not be diluted.

On the question of filling of 208 vacant posts of High Court judges, Mr Bharadwaj put the blame on the NDA government for not expediting the matter.

He promised to fill the posts on priority basis, saying: “The vacancies will be cleared on the basis of one High Court a day” and the Chief Justices of different high courts would be requested to speed up their proposals.

On disinvestment, the Law Minister said the principle of “integrated reform” process would be adopted by the new government.

Asked to elaborate, he said: “Any disinvestment proposal should have approval of Parliament, should be in consonance with the provisions of relevant laws like the Company Act and the tax laws.”

Criticising the NDA government for not following the “integrated principle”, Mr Bharadwaj said: “This is necessary to avoid any litigation regarding any disinvestment proposal later. Any such proposal should have full sanction of the law.”


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