A parliamentary panel on Tuesday stressed the need for a “comprehensive law on judges’ appointmenst”, noting the present draft of the bill only addresses the issue “partially”. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Personnel submitted its report on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 in both Houses of Parliament. The bill was tabled in Lok Sabha in 2010.
According to the committee, “the current bill deals with the problem partially” and does not address the “systematic lacunae”.
About a National Judicial Commission as an alternative to replace the collegium system, panel chairman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said he had a neutral position in the matter.
The committee thinks the government has to move beyond “an incremental approach” and “give urgent and due thought to a holistic legislation” encompassing the appointment process to ensure judicial accountability, he said.
The committee further recommended a clause in the bill should be expanded “by specifically mentioning that judges should restrain themselves from making unwarranted comments” in open court.
“While judges were free to make observations as part of their judgements, the recommendation suggests they should avoid making comments which are non-judgemental,” Singhvi said.
The panel also suggested inclusion of two MPs – one each from the two houses of parliament – to become part of the proposed National Judicial Oversight Committee that will be authorised to initiate probes into corruption allegations against senior judges.
The committee said that the scrutiny committee will be in place in the Supreme Court and in each of the 21 high courts and would submit reports within three months to the Oversight Committee.
Other recommendations of the committee include in camera initial investigations by a scrutiny panel on a complaint against a Supreme Court or high court judge.
The report said that such an arrangement was necessary to ensure that the judge in question does not face unwarranted defamation in the initial stage of investigation.
The committee also suggested accountability of media in relation to divulging the information while complaints are under investigation. Singhvi clarified that this was not intended to be a gag order on the press.