In the speech delivered by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Shri. S. H. Kapadia on the occasion of the Independence Day, he highlighted the importance of “decisional independence” and “institutional independence” of the Judiciary. He also cautioned the Government that “drafting of laws today is not satisfactory” and suggested that the caution be kept in mind whilst changing the constitutional scheme of things. This was interpreted by some sections as being a criticism of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. To quell the controversy, the Ministry of Law & Justice has issued a detailed Press Release:
Press Release dated 17.08.2012 issued by the Ministry of Law & Justice
The Provisions of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill do not in any way Infringe on the Independence of the Judiciary
Several national dailies have carried a news item on 16.08.2012 conveying that Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill will impair the independence of judiciary. The Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Justice, would like to state that this is not true. In fact, it seems that the statement made by Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has been twisted and not seen and interpreted in full context. At the same time, the attempt to link the Bill with independence of judiciary, is not based on facts.
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill has been prepared after holding wide ranging consultations and after holding discussions with legal experts, eminent Jurists, Non-government Organizations (NGO) etc. The Bill has three parts. It lays down Judicial Standards which are derived from the Restatement of Values in Judicial Life, 1997 and have the acceptance and approval of the Full Court of Supreme Court. It makes it mandatory for the judges to declare their assets and liabilities. It makes provisions for filing of complaints by the citizens and the mechanism for their scrutiny and subsequent action for investigation or otherwise. For this, there are provisions for constituting Complaints Scrutiny Panel (CSP) which will scrutinize the complaints. They will be referred to National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC) for enquiry and action, only if there is a substance in them. All the bodies namely, CSP & NJOC comprise of persons who will be from judiciary and who are expected to exercise due care and circumspection while handling the complaints against Judges and before recommending action against them.
The Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Justice, would like to clarify that by enforcing standards of behaviour, by declaration of assets by them and by providing a mechanism for making complaints against erring Judges and for their investigation, the Bill will establish the confidence and faith of the people in the judicial system without exposing them to unnecessary risk.
The provisions of the Bill do not in any way infringe on the independence of the judiciary which is hallmark of Indian democracy and which is guaranteed under constitution. The accountability and independence can co-exist in a reinforcing mode and without affecting the working of the judiciary. The apprehensions expressed are then devoid of the understanding of the Scheme of the Bill and without understanding of the fact that it meets the aspirations of the people in a functioning democracy like India having a functioning judiciary.