Monday, December 3, 2012

Bill to bar judges from making unrelated comments

The government is set to retain in Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill the controversial provision that gags judges of higher judiciary from making observation in courts during hearing of cases.

Contesting that prohibiting judges from making observations that had no bearing on the case before the court was a gag provision, Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar Friday said the provision was being retained in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.

“Nothing in the bill should be construed as a gag provision,” he said, adding that it was based on what the apex court had said in its numerous judgments asking judges not to make out-of-context observations.

The government was committed to “maintaining, preserving and upholding the independence of judiciary”, the minister said, adding that it was for constructive engagement with judiciary and was alive to “judicial sensitivities”.

“Courts must not make observations against those which is not necessary for deciding the case before them,” Ashwani Kumar told the reporters at his first official press conference here after assuming the charge of the ministry.

The minister responded to many questions on the setting up of a Judicial Appointment Commission to replace the existing collegium system of appointment of judges and setting up of courts to exclusively deal with commercial matters.

Asked how was the government going to enforce this provision restraining judges, an apparently bewildered law minister said “…to make it a part of law, so that the defenders of law would not violate it.”

He said all matters pertaining to the discharge of judicial duties rested with the judiciary.

There was a broad in-principle consensus on the alternate mechanism for the appointment of judges in higher judiciary, Ashwani Kumar said.

He said the mechanism for the appointment of judges through the National Judicial Commission would be more transparent and based on greater inputs.

In pursuance of this goal, whatever was required would be done — be it amending the constitution or reviewing the apex court judgment by which the existing collegium system was put in place, he added.

On setting up of exclusive courts to deal with commercial matters, the minister hoped that a bill for this could be introduced in the current winter session of parliament.

Having said this, he added: “In a global economic environment, we need to have (justice delivery) system that works for all, including the business.”

For effective functioning of the gram nyalayas, the minister said he had sought the cooperation of the chief justices of high courts and chief ministers of different states.

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