Law panel for weeding out ‘uncle judges’ from high courts

By Rana Ajit, IANS,

New Delhi : The Law Commission of India has recommended getting rid of judges – known as ‘uncle judges’ in legal circles – posted in high courts where they have practised for long and where they might have developed vested interests.

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The recommendation is part of the commission’s 233rd report submitted to the union government recently. The panel is headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, a former Supreme Court judge.

Asked for the government’s views on the recommendation, a senior law ministry official told IANS: “As per present constitutional provisions, the appointment and transfer of the high court judges fall largely in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and also to some extent of the high courts themselves.”

“Accordingly, the commission’s report has been forwarded to various high courts and the Supreme Court to take a view on the matter,” the official added.

Dwelling upon the need to weed out ‘uncle judges’ from the high court, the panel said: “As a matter of practice, a person, who has worked as a district judge or has practised in a high court in a state, is appointed as a high court judge of the of same state.

“This often leads hearing of complaints about ‘uncle judges’,” says the report.

“If a person has practised in a high court, say, for 20 or 25 years and is appointed as a judge in the same high court, overnight change is not possible.

“He has his colleague advocates – both senior and junior – as well as his kith and kin, who had been practising with him. Even wards of some district judges, elevated to high court, are in practice in the same high court,” the law panel said.

“There are occasions, when advocates, appointed as judges in high courts where they have practised, either settle their scores with former colleagues or have soft corner for them,” said the panel report.

“In any case, this affects their impartiality and justice is the loser. The equity demands that the justice shall not only be done but should also appear to have been done,” said the report, seeking immediate transfer of such judges to a high court outside their native states.

“Even in superior government services, officers are not posted in their home districts except for very special reasons,” said the commission, adding: “In any case, the judges, whose kith and kin are practising in a high court, should not be posted in the same high court. This will eliminate ‘uncle judges’ phenomena.”

In another interesting recommendation, the panel advocated that the people “committed to the need of protection and preservation of the institution of marriage” should preferably be selected as judge.

“In selecting persons for appointment as judges, every endeavour should be made to ensure that persons committed to the need to protect and preserve the institution of marriage, promote the welfare of children and qualified by reason of their experience and expertise to promote settlement of disputes by conciliation and counselling are selected,” the panel said.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at [email protected])