Consensus eludes parliamentary panel on judges bill


New Delhi : A parliamentary panel Thursday failed to finalise its recommendations on a bill to set up an institutional mechanism to probe corruption charges against judges of the higher judiciary. It will meet again June 26.

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After a day-long meeting, E.M.S. Natchiappan, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice ministry, told IANS: "We were unable to finalise our recommendations today. We will meet again on June 26."

The bill, known as the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006, seeks to establish a National Judicial Council to probe allegations like corruption and inefficiency against judges of the higher judiciary. The bill was referred to the panel after the law ministry introduced it in the Lok Sabha on Dec 19, 2006.

"We are striving for a consensus recommendation to the government on the issue. We are examining the bill very closely as it's a very sensitive issue," said Natchiappan.

He hoped the panel report will be submitted to parliament during its monsoon session.

Asked about the reservations among various panel members over provisions of the bill, Natchiappan said: "It's a very delicate issue. The committee is trying to sort out all differences."

The bill has been facing severe opposition in the panel on several counts, including a provision – Section 30 – which allows an impeached judge of the Supreme Court or a high court to challenge in the apex court the president's order dismissing him.

Owing to this provision, the members have termed the bill as "unconstitutional", saying that it cannot be passed without amending the constitution.

Several members, including eminent lawyer and former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, have repeatedly questioned Section 30.

Jethmalani had earlier told IANS, "Section 30 is the most foolish provision of the bill."

The bill is also facing resistance over a provision – Section 33 – that seeks to make an inquiry against a judge by the National Judicial Council confidential and keep the probe out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Panel members questioned the rationale of making the enquiry process against a judge confidential, saying even the process of appointment of judges fell within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.