DELHI Chief Justice of India
Y.K.Sabharwal has admitted that no institution, including the Supreme Court, is
infallible and that some of the judgements passed by the apex court may not
necessarily be the correct ones. The admission comes at a time when the
judiciary is increasingly coming under scrutiny and a need for it to be
accountable for its decisions is being felt.
After serious objections
from both the chief justice and his predecessor R.C.Lahoti, the UPA has readied a
draft Bill which will allow complaints against sitting judges. The judges
(inquiry) Bill-which will amend the existing 1968 Act - will be introduced in
the winter session of Parliament.
Sabharwal had returned
the draft Bill with suggestions which have been incorporated. The most
significant change in the Bill is the establishment of a National Judicial
Council (NJC) comprising the CJI, two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and
two judges from high courts, nominated by the CJI.
The NJC proposes a
two-tier method of commencement of inquiry against sitting judges.
Citizens can directly approach the NJC with complaints or it can take suo motu
note. Parliament can also refer complaints to it. The NJC can grant punishments
ranging from censure to the option of ‘resignation’. The method of impeachment
will still lie with Parliament.
Lahoti had disagreed
with the original composition of the council which included a nominee of the
Prime minister, while Sabharwal did not want Supreme Court judges to be
scrutinised by high court judges. He had also objected to inquiry against
retired judges. A similar Bill introduced during the NDA regime lapsed in
Law Minister H.R.
Bhardwaj has placated Sabharwal by assuring him that retired judges will not be
investigated, the CJI will be out of the ambit of inquiry of the NJC and no
high court judges will sit on the panel examining complaints against sitting
Supreme Court judges.
The Bill is, however,
silent about punishment for non-performance or delays in decisions. Jurists
believe that is still the major cause of a huge number of pending cases in
Indian courts. The NJC will hopefully devise its own mechanism to deal with it.
by Neeraj Mishra