JUDGES : WHO WILL JUDGE THEM ? I


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Erring judges: Govt, SC differ on response

Himanshi Dhawan TNN

     New Delhi: At a time when judicial accountability is being hotly debated, the government and the Supreme Court appear to have shrugged off responsibility on the procedure to deal with complaints against erring judges with both giving contradictory RTI responses.

      While the justice department said that the chief justice of the high court concerned and the CJI (for judges of the SC and the chief justices of other courts) had the competent authority to ascertain facts and take appropriate action, the then CJI Y K Sabharwal had in response to an RTI plea in 2006 rejected a complaint for action against an HC judge on the basis that neither the SC nor the CJI were “appointing or disciplinary authority’’ in respect of judges of superior courts.

      Significantly the government has also said that there was no provision to restrict HC judges from their entitlement of post-retirement benefits even if the judges had resigned prematurely to avoid contempt proceedings.

        When asked in an RTI plea by activist S C Agrawal on action taken against judges, the justice department in its reply dated December 30, 2011 referred to a conference of chief justices in 1990, saying that the CJI had summed up the position by saying, “The CJ of the HC has the competence to receive complaints against the conduct of the judges of his court… where he is satisfied that the matter requires to be examined, he shall have facts ascertained in such a manner as he considers appropriate keeping the nature of allegations in view and if he is of the opinion that the matter is such that it should be reported to the CJI, he shall do so. The CJI shall act in a similar manner in regard to complaints relating to conduct of judges of the SC and CJs of high courts.’’

       In the 2006 reply to Agrawal, SC registrar and appellate authority Hemant Sampat quoted the then CJI Sabhawal and said, “Neither the SC nor the CJI were appointing or disciplinary authority in respect of judges of superior courts, including judges of HCs.’’ Agrawal had in October 2005 complained against an HC judge misusing his position to former CJI R C Lahoti. No action was taken against the complaint.

       Agrawal approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) which in an order in April 2006 asked the SC to disclose the status of the complaint. Sabharwal’s order in response to the CIC direction was that the he had examined the matter and found no merit in the complaint.

35cr study to find effect of backlog on judges’ minds

Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN

     New Delhi: The Centre has agreed to conduct a study to find how the 14,000-odd trial court judges have been psychologically impacted by the continuous struggle to fight off 2.77 crore pending cases.

     It informed the Supreme Court that it was ready to sanction Rs 35 crore for a five-year study to investigate the impact of pendency pressure on judicial officers and examine whether it adversely impacted the output of trial court judges. With the high courts fixing minimum disposal rate for trial court judges in view of the huge pendency, judicial officers in district courts are under a lot of pressure, given the inadequate infrastructure, to decide the minimum required disposals.

      Amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, assisting a bench of Justices A K Ganguly and T S Thakur in overall improvement of justice delivery system, had felt that heavy work load for a long period of time could cause psychological pressure on the judicial officers.

     Among other suggestions to the court for improving efficiency of justice delivery mechanism, he had mooted a psychological study to analyse whether such pressure “ran down the morale of the judge, his efficiency and ability and consequent loss of output”.
The ministry of law and justice, in its response to the suggestions, said “the study suggested can be taken up by the recently set up National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms”.

     It said the a scheme for “study of Judicial Reforms and Assessment Status” was being implemented by the Department of Justice but the term of the scheme was coming to an end on March 31, 2012.

     “As the need for continuing the Action Research and Studies highlighted above is felt, the scheme may be continued during the 12th five-year plan period as an activity of the National Mission for Judicial Reforms and Assessment Status,” the ministry said.

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