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As rot in judiciary increases, why it is time to revisit the Justice Malimath report

By Vicky
|

Amidst the major rift in the Supreme Court, it would be interesting to take a look at the recommendations made by the Justice V Malimath Committee on reforms of the criminal justice system.

As rot in judiciary increases, why it is time to revisit the Justice Malimath report

While Justice Malimath and his team had gone into various aspects to make the criminal justice system better, he had also set down guidelines for judges and courts.

The 2003 report has been catching dust and successive governments have not bothered visiting it. Recently at the annual Directors General of Police conference held in Madhya Pradesh, the report came up for discussion. The government would now consult with the Law Ministry on the implementation of the report.

In this context, it would be interesting to see what the committee had said about the courts and also with regard to impeachment of judges.

Judges of India:

"There is gross inadequacy of judges to cope up the enormous pendency and new inflow of cases. The existing judge-population ratio in India is 10.5:13 per million population as against 50 judges per million population in many parts of the world. The Supreme Court has given directions to all the States to increase the judge strength by five times in a phased manner within the next five years. The vacancies in the High Courts have remained unfilled for years. This must be remedied quickly.

The Commission is deeply concerned about the deterioration in the quality of judges appointed to the courts at all levels. The Constitution of a National Judicial Commission is being considered at the national level to deal with the appointment of judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court and to deal with the complaints of misconduct against them. The mere entrustment of the power of appointment to the National Judicial Commission will not ensure the appointment of competent and upright judges. We need a process to ensure objectivity and transparency on this behalf.

This requires laying down the precise qualifications, experience, qualities and attributes that are needed in a good judge and also the prescription of objective criteria to apply to the overall background of the candidate. The analysis and discussions preceding their recommendations should be recorded so as to ensure objectivity and transparency in the matter of selecting the candidates.

Complaints:

There are also complaints of serious aberrations in the conduct of the judges. Under Article 235 of the Constitution, the High Court can exercise supervision and control over the subordinate courts. There is no such power conferred either on the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Chief Justice of India or the Supreme Court of India. The provisions for impeachment are quite difficult to implement. It is felt that the Chief Justice should be conferred certain powers to enforce discipline and to take some corrective or advisory measures against his colleagues whenever aberrations in their conduct come to notice.

The Committee also feels that criminal work is highly specialised and to improve the quality of justice only those who have expertise in criminal work should be appointed and posted to benches to deal exclusively with criminal work. As the expertise a, all levels is found to be woefully inadequate the Committee feels that suitably tailored intensive training including practical programme should be devised and all the judges given training not only at the induction time but also in service at frequent intervals. To achieve these objectives, the following recommendations are made:-

Special attention needed:

Qualifications prescribed for appointment of judges at different levels should be reviewed to ensure that highly competent judges are inducted at different levels.

Special attention should be paid to enquire into the background and antecedents of the persons appointed to the Judicial Offices to ensure that persons of proven integrity and character are appointed.

Intensive training should be imparted in theoretical, practical and in court management to all the Judges.

In the Supreme Court and High Courts, the respective Chief Justices should constitute a separate criminal division consisting of such number of criminal benches as may be required consisting of judges who have specialized in criminal law.

Such judges should normally be continued to deal with criminal cases until they demit office.

Vacancies in the criminal divisions should be filled up by appointing those who have specialized knowledge in criminal law.

In the subordinate courts where there are more judges of the same cadre at the same place, as far as possible assigning of civil and criminal cases to the same judge every day should be avoided.

In urban areas where there are several trail courts some corust should have lady judges who should be assigned as far as possible criminal cases relating to women.

A High Power Committee should be constituted to lay down the qualifications, qualities and attributes regarding character and integrity that the candidate for the High Court judgeship should possess and specify the evidence or material necessary to satisfy these requirements. Reasons should be recorded with reference to these criteria by the selecting authority.

Reforms:

The Chief Justice of the High Court may be empowered on the lines of the US Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disabilities Act 1980 to do the following:-

  • Advise the judge suitably
  • Disable the judge from hearing a particular class of cases
  • Withdrawing judicial work for a specified period
  • Censure the judge
  • Advise the judge to seek voluntary retirement
  • Move the Chief Justice of India to advise the Judge or initiate action for impeachment.

The Chief Justice of the High Court may issue circulars:-

That immediately below the cause title of the judgment order the following particulars shall be entered:-

  • Date of conclusion of arguments
  • Date of reserving the judgmen
  • Date of pronouncement of judgment
  • At the bottom of the judgment the following particulars shall be entered:-
  • Date when the dictation was completed
  • Date when typing was completed and placed before the judge
  • The date when the judge signed
  • The Court Officer shall enter in a separate register:-
  • The time when the judge assembled.
  • The time when the judge rose
  • Copy of this record shall be sent to the Chief Justice on the same day and put up on the notice board.

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