NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday said there was a need to bring more transparency in the functioning of the higher judiciary and make it accountable.
Law minister Kapil Sibal said accountability within the judiciary was exceptionally weak. He said discretionary powers with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) resulted in very few judges being brought to book for corruption.
“Unless the CJI in his individual capacity grants sanction, there can be no process of investigation. And, therefore, you see very few instances of people being brought to book. So, I think there is a great issue that we need to confront ourselves with, which is of judicial accountability,” the law minister said chairing a panel discussion at Central Vigilance Commission’s golden jubilee function.
Sibal said the situation was similar with the lower judiciary where the discretion to investigate a judge lay with the judges. “That’s purely discretional. The processes of investigation there are also exceptionally weak,” he said.
The law minister suggested “some institutional framework” to ensure there was accountability within the judiciary to dispel perception of widespread corruption in judiciary.
Referring to a Supreme Court judgment making MPs accountable, the minister said when it came to accountability in judiciary, the apex court had observed that unless prior sanction was taken from the CJI, no prosecution could be launched.
The government is considering taking up the Judges Accountability Bill that provides for setting up a five-member inquiry panel headed by a former CJI to deal with complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.
The accountability bill has provision for an inquiry panel and an investigation committee. The government may include provision for inquiry against former top judges holding post-retirement positions that requires presidential reference for an inquiry against them.
There is no such mechanism at present to probe complaints against judges or former judges. Neither the apex court nor the HCs have any in-house system to deal with complaints against the higher judiciary. All such complaints are referred to the CJI.
The accountability bill, however, may drop a clause which debars judges from making comments against any constitutional authority in open court. The decision may be taken by the Cabinet on Wednesday. The bill has been passed in Lok Sabha and is pending in Rajya Sabha.
……….. TNN Feb 12, 2014, 04.42AM IST