New Delhi: Narendra Modi led NDA government is planning to revive a UPA bill, which sought to put in place a system to probe complaints against judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts, after adding a new clause to assess the performance of members of the higher judiciary.
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was brought by the Previous UPA government to bring accountability in judiciary. The bill had had lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014 but the Modi government wants to bring afresh the legislation with certain changes.
The framework of the new bill had come up for discussion at a meeting of the Advisory Council of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms here in February. It was felt that the scope of judicial accountability in the country was being confined to the issues relating to judicial ethics and judicial misconduct. If India follows the framework of court excellence, it may widen the scope and bring in the issues of "efficiency and transparency" in the country's legal processes, officials had said at the meeting.
The Law Ministry has now referred the issue of 'development and enforcement of performance standards to enhance accountability of higher judiciary in India' to a Delhi-based think tank on legal research for examination. The report of the think tank will be used while discussing the issue of "performance indicator" in the higher judiciary when the bill comes up for wider consultations, sources in the government said.
"A mandate...to inculcate independence, impartiality and accountability among judges should be considered without delay. This could be done by reintroducing a modified Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill," a Law Ministry note perpared for the meeting had said. Though the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in March, 2012, it had undergone changes in the Rajya Sabha following protests by the judiciary and jurists who had questioned some of its provisions.
The lapsed bill provided for a comprehensive mechanism for handling complaints made by citizens on grounds of alleged misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. It also provided for a mechanism to take action against those found guilty after investigation. Besides laying down judicial standards, it made it incumbent on the judges to declare their assets and liabilities.
Another proposed change in the now lapsed bill relates to the National Judicial Oversight Committee. It says a National Judicial Oversight Committee for Judicial Accountability could be set up comprising the Chief Justice of India, representing the Judiciary, the Law Minister and an eminent person, representing the Legislature and the civil society respectively.
The National Judicial Oversight Committee could then develop its own procedures and make rules for creation of similar structures at the state-level.