Judicial Council to Make Judges Accountable : Cabinet

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New Delhi, Oct 8 (UNI) The government tonight announced a move to set up a National Judicial Council to investigate complaints against ''Judges of higher judiciary and recommend suitable action.'' The announcement did not spell out the composition of the Council, which experts, including former judges, say ought to include non- Judicial persons or ''outsiders.'' One expert, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, chairman of Department- related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, saw it as a ''good initiative.'' Dr Natchiappan said it would give statutory support to existing in-house procedures, which have been criticised by many as suffering from opacity.

The announcement by the Union Cabinet also did not spell out what might constitute ''suitable action''.

But a source in the Law and Justice Ministry indicated the allusion was to 'minor measures' authorities have proposed before.

Hitherto, members of the higher Indian judiciary cannot be disciplined except by impeachment in Parliament provided for in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

It has been tried just once in forty years-- and failed, with members of the Indian National Congress abstaining.

''The hiatus between bad behaviour and impeachable misbehaviour needs to be filled,'' the Parlimentary committee said.

The Cabinet announced its approval for : -- Withdrawal of the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006 introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19.12.2006; and -- Introduction of the Judges (Inquiry) Amendment Bill, 2008 in Parliament.

It said withdrawal of the Bill would be in consonance with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee contained in its Report on the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006.

It approved establishing a National Judicial Council ''with the powers to investigate complaints against the Judges of higher judiciary and recommend suitable action after following the prescribed procedure.'' It said the new Bill would bring ''transparency in the functioning of the judiciary and would also enhance its prestige.'' The idea was proposed by Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj in January 2005 as part of an effort to ensure accountability in all three key branches of governance-- executive, legislature and judiciary.

He said the existing accountability mechanisms were deficient insofar as no clear provision existed on how to discipline judges in the event of misconduct.

UNI MJ MIR HT2320

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