New Delhi, Nov. 9: Anyone will be able to lodge complaints against Supreme Court and high court judges if Parliament passes a law that might be tabled in the winter session.
The Union cabinet today approved the Judges (Inquiry) Bill 2006, which allows complaints of “misbehaviour’’ or “incapacity’’ against all members of the higher judiciary except the Chief Justice of India. Such allegations can now attract punishment for contempt.
The charges — ranging from bribery and favouritism (misbehaviour) to infirmity and mental sickness (incapacity) — will be heard by a five-judge National Judicial Council.
The only action that can now be taken against high court and apex court judges — including the CJI — is impeachment by Parliament.
Not a single judge in India has been impeached, a procedure that needs the support of a majority of the total members of both Houses, and of a two-thirds majority of those present and voting.
Impeachment is possible only on extremely serious charges. Now minor charges can be brought, which could lead to the judges being denied assignments for some time, or being admonished or asked to resign.
The current laws, however, allow individuals to complain against judges of lower courts — such as judicial magistrates and sessions judges — who are treated as ordinary public servants.
The complaints against the high court and apex court judges must be lodged in a prescribed form. The judges can defend themselves before the NJC, which will be made up by the CJI and four others nominated by him. The council will have two members from the high courts unless the accused is a Supreme Court judge.
Former Chief Justice of India V.N. Khare welcomed the bill, saying he had received complaints against senior judges during his tenure but hadn’t been able to do much.