Law panel chief wants new judicial standards bill

Law panel chief wants new judicial standards bill

Law panel chief wants new judicial standards bill

Law Commission of India Chairman Justice A P Shah has questioned the constitutionality of the complaint procedure that is to be created against sitting Supreme Court and high court judges in the proposed law on judicial standards and accountability. 

He said the mandatory consideration of all grievances by the procedure would have a debilitating effect on the independence of the judiciary.

He recommended that the government bring a fresh bill to investigate complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against judges, pointing to “grave drawbacks” in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2012.

In a note, he asked for minute examination of questions surrounding the constitutionality of the complaint redressal mechanism in the form of the Oversight Committee, and its effect on judicial independence.

“The Bill allows complaints from the public alleging misbehaviour on the part of sitting SC or HC judges, which can ultimately result in impeachment. The Constitution does not allow Parliament to create another forum that results in impeachment proceedings resulting from a complaint filed by one person. Such complaints, especially if made incessantly, and their mandatory consideration by the Oversight Committee, can have a debilitating effect on judicial independence,” said the chairman.

He pointed out that the definition of “misbehaviour”, as given in the Bill, was both “over-inclusive and under-inclusive”.

“It is over-inclusive because several minor infractions will also constitute misbehaviour, for which in-principle impeachment will be an available remedy. At the same time, it is under-inclusive because the definition is exhaustive. Though it has the residuary clause ‘conduct which brings dishonour or disrepute to the judiciary’, this definition is so vague as to be redundant,” he said.

Another provision mentioned in the Bill under Clause 3(f) provides that no judge shall enter into a public debate or express his views in public on political matters. Justice Shah criticised this too, saying, “This is a widely worded restriction and considerable litigation can be expected to ensue (due to it), including several cases of vendetta by losing litigants, on the connotation of ‘view expressed’, ‘political matters’, etc.”