Ex-CJI against bringing PM, higher judiciary under Lokpal

Ex-CJI against bringing PM, higher judiciary under Lokpal

 Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma has disapproved of Anna Hazare's demands of bringing the higher judiciary and the Prime Minister under the Lokpal's ambit, saying it will be against the Constitution's basic structure.

Terming as "undemocratic" Hazare's threat to go on another indefinite fast from August 16 if his demands on the Lokpal bill were not met, Verma said bringing judiciary under Lokpal's ambit will ultimately affect the democratic structure of the country.

"Absolutely not... It would be a mistake. It will foul with the basic structure of the Constitution. Judicial review is a basic feature (of the Constitution)...for which an independent judiciary is essential," Verma told Karan Thapar in his Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

He was replying to a question on whether the higher judiciary should be brought under Lokpal's ambit as being demanded by the Gandhian and his supporters.

The former CJI also cautioned against making the Prime Minister a "lame duck" institution saying the "Prime Minister should only be accountable through Parliament" in the Parliamentary democracy that the country has adopted.

Verma dismissed contentions of civil society members that there was no problem in bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal's ambit as he was already covered under ordinary laws.

"If he (Prime Minister) is covered in those aspects under ordinary laws, you do not need a Lokpal to cover him for those things. And for the other things, you cannot have a lame duck Prime Minister because there is no provision for President's Rule at the Centre," he said.Noting that bringing judiciary under Lokpal's ambit will create a circularity of accountability, whereby judges can be questioned by Lokpal and its orders can be challenged by courts, Verma said "it must be avoided at all costs".

Quoting Constitutional provisions about independence of judiciary, he said even the subordinate judiciary is also subject to control "only by the higher judiciary".

The former CJI at the same time maintained that the Constitution provides for enactment of law to deal with misbehaviour of High Court and Supreme Court judges.

Dismissing civil society's criticism that the proposed Judicial Accountability Bill was weak and only talked of misbehaviour and not corruption, Verma said misbehaviour has wider connotations and includes corruption.

"It is too naive to say misbehaviour does not cover corruption. Any improper behaviour is misbehaviour. Corruption is the worst form of improper behaviour," he said.

He also said that bringing higher judiciary under Lokpal will deter good people from joining the bench. "It is becoming difficult to attract the best from the bar and it (bringing higher judiciary under Lokpal's ambit) will make it all the more difficult," he said.
Verma also disfavoured allowing Lokpal to judge the conduct of MPs inside Parliament saying that is subject to privileges and any "outside body" should not be involved into it. He emphasized the need to codify the privileges to have a check on their conduct.
Terming Hazare's decision to go on indefinite fast from August 16 as "undemocratic", Verma said, "Ultimately the law has be to made by Parliament."

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