Bill proposes debarring errant judges

Those guilty of graft and misconduct will face stringent punishment

The Bill, which is being given final touches, will be put before the Union Cabinet next few days, top Central government sources disclosed. If the Cabinet approves, the Bill will be sought to be introduced in Parliament during the winter session beginning Thursday.

Sources said the government proposed to replace the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968 which only contains provisions to impeach a superior court judge if he or she is found to be guilty of misdemeanour. The draft Bill will “go beyond” impeachment and have provisions to punish errant judges.

The draft Bill proposes three main punishments against judges found to be guilty of corruption, acts of misdemeanour and misconduct and non-transparency. Such judges will now be liable for outright dismissal and removal (by impeachment). The draft Bill goes a step further, proposing that once charges are proved against the errant judges, they would be barred from practising law.

“When the Bill is placed before the Cabinet, the government will have taken the first step to redress an imbalance in the higher judiciary where it was very difficult to lodge complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts,” a senior official said.

Sources said the draft Bill will also have foolproof provisions on the processes involved in the appointment of judges of the Surpeme Court and the high courts. This would mean that stricter background checks of individual judges would be carried out before they are empanelled for elevation to the higher judiciary.

Government sources, however, said the draft Bill will contain provisions that would safeguard the superior judges from frivolous charges and trumped-up complaints. Judges will get adequate protection so that the legislation is not misused. But the focus would be to ensure that courts stand up for transparency and accountability. The country’s courts system, characterised by lack of accountability, has historically claimed privilege and secrecy over issues relating to instances of alleged corruption and misconduct.

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