Panel for caution over judicial graft probes

Panel for caution over judicial graft probes

Grievances against members of judiciary will be addressed by national oversight committee

The panel that reviewed the contentious Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, has suggested introduction of an in-camera screening mechanism in the judicial probe to “filter out false and frivolous complaints against judges,” said Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee of Personnel, Public Grievance, Law and Justice.

While the committee in its report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday recommended prohibition on media at various stages of investigation, Singhvi clarified that it was not a blanket ban.

“There is no gag order on  media. Once the screening panel is done with its job, media is at liberty to report on the probe and the findings,” he clarified. Media will not be allowed to report on the in-camera probe where a committee determines if prima facie there is any merit in complaints against judges.

According to the bill, grievances against the members of judiciary will be addressed through a national judicial oversight committee, which will have a scrutiny panel and investigation panel under its ambit.

The bill seeks to make asset declaration mandatory for judges, too, in consonance with the people’s right to know.

The panel suggested broad basing the panels by incorporating parliamentarians in the oversight committee and representatives from the legislature and executives in other panels rather than restricting the membership within judiciary.

Wanting to put an end to judicial overreach, the panel said, “The judges should restrain themselves from making unwarranted comments against other constitutional or statutory bodies or institutions or persons in open court while hearing cases.”

Singhvi said that the judicial standards and accountability bill will only be a partial success unless the government comes up with another bill cleaning up the process of appointing judges.

Without that, efficacy of this bill will be seriously impaired.
The panel also recommended making a distinction between frivolous charges and complaints made in good faith. Those coming in the second category will not be liable for charge.

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