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Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 finalized
The final bill will be brought before the cabinet for approval. It highlights provisions for removing judges in case of misconduct. The alleged judge can be warned and reprimanded, and in case of serious violations, will be impeached.

A long-delayed controversial bill on accountability of judges will be taken up by the Union Cabinet at its next meeting amid the government's assertion that the proposed law was aimed at ensuring that no fingers are pointed at the judiciary.

Union law minister M Veerappa Moily told PTI in an interview that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, had been finalised after exhaustive studies and examination of such legislations existing across the world. It has been cleared by group of ministers, to which it was referred in March this year following differences of opinion in the cabinet. The bill would now come up before the cabinet for approval, Moily said.

Asked whether the cabinet would take up the bill this week, he replied in the affirmative.

"Once cleared by the cabinet, we hope to table it in the coming monsoon session of Parliament," Moily said. Moily said the bill will "facilitate the judiciary to ensure that nobody points any finger at them...it is a result of an exhaustive study of eight months and we have examined various legislations of the world (to draft it)." Terming the bill as "state-of-the-art", he said it would make judiciary "accountable" for its acts of omission and commission and "clear clouds over corruption".

Several cabinet members had found flaws in the Bill when it came up before the union cabinet in March this year. Home minister P Chidambaram and HRD minister Kapil Sibal, both lawyers, had found flaws in the bill like the quantum of punishment for a judge if found guilty of misconduct.

Subsequently, the GoM, headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and including Chidambaram, Sibal and Moily, was formed to deliberate on the contentious legislation.

One of the contentious clauses in the bill was the provision for "minor reprimands" for judges for acts of omission and commission. When the bill came to the Cabinet on March 15, Chidambaram and Sibal had reportedly expressed reservations about the particular clause. They had reportedly said that a judge can either be guilty or not guilty and there was no justification to have a clause on minor reprimands. The bill proposes that a judge can be warned, taken off work, censured or admonished, depending upon the misconduct. But if the violation is serious in nature, the judge can also be impeached.

There was also disagreement on whether the Judges Enquiry Act, 1968 should be repealed altogether as the proposed bill seeks to do. The bill, in its present form, lays down a code to deal with cases of corruption against judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts. It also seeks to repeal the four decade-old Judges Enquiry Act, 1968 which deals with the process of impeachment of senior judges.

The bill provides for a series of committees to probe the allegations against judges before an impeachment motion is introduced in either house of Parliament. While there will be one Scrutiny Committee for the Supreme Court, the other will be for the 21 high courts.

The bill proposes to set up a National Judicial Oversight Committee, likely to be headed by the Vice-President in his capacity as the Chairman of Rajya Sabha with distinguished jurists as members that will receive the complaints against the sitting judges.

 

Source: Governance Now