New bill to examine complaints against judges
The government is planning to bring the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill to look into complaints of "misbehaviour and incapacity" against judges. The bill introduced by the previous UPA government had lapsed due to the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. The Law Minister has said that the government is working on a new bill for which consultations will happen with all stakeholders.
Current process of judicial accountability
The current process of judicial scrutiny is extremely cumbersome. A complaint cannot be made by a common man and it can only be entertained if it is initiated by 100 members in Lok Sabha or 50 members in Rajya Sabha. The fact that not a single judge has been removed so far by this process speaks tonnes about the complexity of the process.
Government introduced Judicial Standards & Accountability Bill
The previous UPA government introduced the Judicial Standards Accountability Bill to enable people to complain against misbehaviour and incapacity of judges. It also required judges to disclose their's and their family members' assets and liabilities. It also established a National Judicial Oversight Committee to advise and warn judges and also recommend to the Parliament in case the situation demands their removal.
The original bill lapses
Although the bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012, it faced major resistance in the Rajya Sabha. The bill had several issues such as the Oversight committee had non-judicial members which could affect the independence of the judiciary, the bill required complaints to be confidential and had penalties if confidentiality is breached, etc. Hence, the bill eventually lapsed in May 2014.
Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill only after NJAC
The government had said that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill would be reintroduced in the Parliament only after the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill gets notified. Since the NJAC was being scrutinised by the courts, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill would get delayed. This was also because various jurists had questioned it as targeting the independence of the higher judiciary.
SC puts complaints procedure in public domain
The Apex Court had put the in-house complaints procedure against the judges in the public domain i.e. on its website. Under the mechanism, a person can complain about the misconduct and impropriety of an SC/HC judge to the Chief Justice of the respective courts. However, the procedure which involves only the judicial members was questioned on account of transparency and effectiveness.
Govt working on to bring JSA Bill
Law Minister, DV Sadananda Gowda had said that the government is working on the Judicial Standards and Accountability (JSA) Bill. The bill which is a part of the comprehensive judicial reform agenda of the government may be introduced in Monsoon Session 2016.
Lawyers demand accountability of judges
A group of lawyers and activists had presented a memorandum to PM Modi that the responsibility of judges in delaying cases should be fixed. The memorandum requested the PM to intervene to ensure that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill is passed in the Parliament as soon as possible. They added that judges need to be made accountable and punished for improper conduct.