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Stop-gap justice for errant judges

New Delhi, May 5: The government might empower the Chief Justice of India to initiate disciplinary action against an errant judge.

In the wake of corruption charges against Justice Shamit Mukherjee of Delhi High Court, who was arrested in the Delhi land scandal, the “credibility of the judiciary and method of appointment of judges” have come into sharp focus, legal sources said.

They believe that till the National Judicial Commission takes shape after a Bill is passed by Parliament, the government might consider “vesting” the power of initiating disciplinary action against a judge for “alleged behaviour not compatible with the constitutional office of a judge” in the chief justice.

On the day of stepping down as the chief justice, Justice G.B. Pattanaik had said that “even the chief justice could not do anything in such matters as the judge concerned cannot be removed but by an impeachment motion in Parliament”.

Mukherjee had resigned. If he had not, it would not have been possible to proceed against him or file a chargesheet. His removal, too, could have proved difficult: the impeachment procedure demands that both Houses of Parliament carry the motion by two-thirds majority.

Pattanaik had suggested the government give “some powers” to a body consisting of “the chief justice and others” to take action against errant judges.

He cited a tainted Punjab High Court judge, whom he could only “ask to proceed on leave” and not attend to any judicial work.

“The judge concerned would simply sit at home and draw his salaries and perks with the same privileges. More than that, under the present system, we can do nothing,” he had said.

Now, the government seems set to begin the process of setting up the National Judicial Commission with the Bill slated for this session.

The commission will appoint, transfer and promote judges and initiate disciplinary action.

Former Delhi High Court chief justice Rajinder Sachar said the commission would be a representative body, comprising the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, representatives of the Bar Council of India and others, besides the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.

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