Judicial Accountability Bill introduced in LS

A bill on maintaining the judicial standards and probity was introduced in the Lok Sabha with the provisions to allow inquiry into individual complaints against judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, seeks to set up a high-powered body – National Judicial Oversight Committee which would be responsible for dealing with complaints relating to misbehaviour or incapacity of judges.

Besides, the Constitution Bill 2010 was also moved in the lower house, intending to raise the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65. This is likely to deal with the problem of huge pendency of cases and growing shortage of judges in high courts.

Moving the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 in the Lok Sabha, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said, “The enactment of this Bill will address the growing concern about the standards of probity in public life without exception.”

“I believe that the House will share the view that transparency and independence are intrinsically linked. It is, therefore, felt that the proposed Bill will strengthen the institution of the judiciary in India by making it accountable and will increase the confidence that the public has in the institution of judiciary,” he said.

The bill, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice after its introduction in the Lok Sabha in December, last year, sought to replace the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

Earlier, an inquiry into “misbehaviour and incapacity” of judges could be initiated only at the instance of Members of Parliament as part of an elaborate impeachment process.

The proposed law intended to set up the Oversight Committee which would be empowered to constitute investigation committees after processing complaints as per the requirement. This committee would carry out all scrutiny, inquiry and investigation in a time-bound manner. The bill made it mandatory for declaration of assets and liabilities by judges,  spouses and depen­dent children.

The proposed legislation, however, retained the Parliament’s supremacy for removal of judges and did not change the procedure of impeachment as enshrined under the Constitution.

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