Govt to retain disputed clause on judiciary gag

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, Nov. 18 -- The government on Saturday indicated it would retain a controversial clause in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which seeks to debar judges from making oral comments in open courts, to discipline judges.

Passed by the Lok Sabha in March this year, it faced criticism from top jurists and opposition parties.

Following this, former law minister Salman Khurshid had said the government would make changes in the bill to address the judiciary's concerns, but Khurshid's successor, Ashwani Kumar, hinted the clause is likely to be retained in the bill.

"It will remain in some form in the bill since it forms the part of restatement of values for judges," Kumar said. He added that the government will introduce the bill during the winter session of parliament beginning on Thursday

The bill, for the first time, allows citizens to complain against corrupt judges, but has been facing criticism for the provision which jurists say would "virtually gag" judges in open courts.

The clause prohibits judges from making "unwarranted comments against conduct of any constitutional authority or institutions on the matters which are pending or likely to arise for judicial determination".

Fresh amendments in the bill will be required to be sent back to Lok Sabha after the Rajya Sabha clears them.

Khurshid had said that he would "go back to the cabinet with some "minor amendments" so that a major step forward in judicial reforms does not become a centre of any fresh controversy.

The then Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, addressing a Supreme Court function on Independence Day this year, had said, "the government may make a law for making judges accountable. We are not afraid of that. But it should not tinker with the very constitutional principle of judicial independence."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.