M A I N   N E W S

Complaints against Judges made easy in new Bill
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 29
The Judges Inquiry Bill, likely to be introduced in Parliament during the winter session, starting from November 22, makes a major departure from the 1968 Act, which laid down the procedure for removing a Supreme Court or a High Court Judge from his post through an impeachment motion for any misconduct. The proposed law lays down an altogether different procedure.

Though under the Bill, the power to inquire into the alleged misconduct of a judge is entirely being given to the National Judicial Council (NJC), to be constituted under the proposed law, it will do away with the mandatory provision of collecting signatures of 100 Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs for the introduction of the impeachment motion in any of the either Houses.

The Bill as approved by the Law Commission, to which it was sent after former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti suggested several changes, facilitates entertaining a complaint sent directly to the NJC or Parliament from any quarter, including individuals.

But the Chief Justice of India, the constitutional head of judiciary, has been kept out of the ambit of the NJC. The Law Commission and the Government seem to have taken note of Justice Lahoti’s opposition to bringing the office of the CJI under the ambit of the new law. He had argued that it would erode the credibility of the high constitutional office, in which the people of the country have great faith.

The proposed legislation provides adequate safeguard against “frivolous or vexatious” complaints as the NJC, which will comprise the CJI, two senior-most Supreme Court Judges and two Chief Justices of High Courts, will first examine the nature of the complaint which will require to be supported with adequate material and only then the investigation will be embarked upon.

Once the NJC has made proper inquiry and found that there is substance in the complaint against a judge, it will forward the matter to the President, or directly to Parliament for follow-up action. Parliament is also required to inform the President about it if the matter is sent directly to it as he is the ultimate authority to appoint a Judge.

During an inquiry if substantial material is found against a Judge of misconduct such as bribery, any other form of gratification, judicial actions being influenced by extraneous consideration, the NJC will be empowered to frame charges against him and even ask him to withdraw from judicial work if a “prima facie” case is made out.

It provides adequate mechanism to give reasonable opportunity to the Judge to defend himself and the reasonable time stretches to six months from the date of receipt of the complaint.

If no substance is found in the complaint, the same has also to be communicated by the NJC to the President and to the judge whose conduct was under scrutiny.

In case of NJC initiating inquiry on the reference of Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairperson on a complaint against a Judge sent to them, it will be mandatory for the Council to place its report before Parliament.

The NJC which will be required to maintain complete confidentiality of its probe, will be required to issue a “code of conduct” for Judges from time to time. They will be required to submit details of their assets and liabilities at the time of appointment and annually thereafter to the CJI and Chief Justices of the High Courts as the case may be.



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