Judiciary confused about ways of dealing with errant judges

RTI petitions yield confusing information on receiving complaints about judges of superior courts

It looks like confusion exists within the judiciary itself about ways of dealing with errant judges. Two different RTI queries have yielded contradictory answers from former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal and the Department of Justice on the procedure to deal with complaints received by Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and high courts against judges of higher courts.

In October 2011, RTI activist Subhas Chandra Agrawal filed a query with the Department of Justice, seeking information on commissions constituted to probe tainted judges PD Dinakaran and Soumitra Sen. He also asked about the benefits allowed to judges who resign before enquiry or impeachment proceedings start; and powers of the chief justice of a high court and the Chief Justice of India to receive complaints against judges of superior courts and taking action against them.

In reply, the CPIO (chief public information officer) on 12th November provided a detailed response to his queries. He clearly mentioned the duties of the Chief Justice of India and that of a high court on receipt of a complaint against a judge belonging to a high court or Supreme Court—elaborately describing the procedure of filing complaints, setting up of probe committees and initiating action of removal of the said judge(s).

However, the information clearly contradicts a statement made by former Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, which was quoted in an RTI response from Supreme Court Registry dated 21st April 2006. Mr Agarwal had asked the same question, the reply to which quoted an order by the then chief justice that said, “Neither Supreme Court or Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority with respect to judges of superior courts, including judges of high courts.”

While the process of removal of judges of the Supreme Court and high court can be done only by the order of the president, complaints can be received by the chief justice of a high court and the Chief Justice of India regarding errant judges, and if the complaint is against the chief justice of a high court, it can be received by the president or the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, who may initiate probe and set up enquiry commissions against the judge.

However, the removal procedure is very complex, and till date only two judges—Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court and V Ramaswamy of the Madras High Court has faced impeachment proceedings in Parliament. Only the former was removed successfully.

According to our Constitution, the Chief Justice of India is consulted by the president regarding appointment of judges of high courts, and the chief justice of a high court is also consulted for appointment of other judges of a high court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is also consulted regarding transfer of judges of a high court.

YK Sabharwal has been a controversial figure, and there are many allegations against him about misusing his authority in order to favour his sons who are in real estate business. Referring to his statement, Mr Agrawal said, “Since two responses from Department of Justice and Supreme Court seem to contradict each other, I appeal that CPIO at Department of Justice may kindly be directed to reveal an exact position about competence of Chief Justices of Supreme Court and high courts in regard of handling complaints against judges of superior courts.”

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    COMMENTS

    Dr V P Sharma

    9 years ago

    The fight should be taken further, more so because of corrosion of morality, ethics and principles in the judicial system, rather whole of society/country. Accountability is the essence of any Democracy and crying from rooftops that we are the biggest democracy doesn't mean that we are the true democracy. The demon of corruption and CHALTA HAI attitude has reached its zenith and has to be curbed. We are a democracy where people who are mediocre rule the country. The intelligentsia is so demoralized that they don't even bother to cast their vote.

    P M Ravindran

    9 years ago

    If the judiciary has given the impression that there is confusion in the matter of dealing with complaints against judges let me assure you it is a put on! And why? Just to convey that there are some means to do that while the truth is that there is nothing other than the preposterous impeachment process. The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution, which submitted its report in 2002, had only suggested the following: setting up a National Judicial Commission 'for making recommendation as to the appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court (other than the Chief Justice of India), a Chief Justice of a High Court and a Judge of any High Court.' and Recommendation 123 of this Commssion reads as follows:

    7.3.8 A committee comprising the Chief Justice of India and two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court shall be exclusively empowered to examine complaints of deviant behaviour of all kinds and complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of The Supreme Court and the High Courts. Their scrutiny at this stage would be confined to ascertain whether –

    (a) there is substance at all in the complaint; or

    (b) there is a prima facie case calling for a fuller investigation and enquiry; or

    (c) whether it would be sufficient to administer an appropriate advice/warning to the erring Judge or give other directions to the concerned Chief Justice regarding allotment of work to such Judge or to transfer him to some other court.

    If, however, the committee finds that the matter is serious enough to call for a fuller investigation or inquiry, it shall refer the matter for a full inquiry to the committee [constituted under the Judges’ (Inquiry) Act, 1968]. The committee under the Judges Inquiry Act shall be a permanent committee with a fixed tenure with composition indicated in the said Act and not one constituted ad-hoc for a particular case or from case to case, as is the present position under Section 3(2) of the Act. The tenure of the inquiry committee shall be for a period of four years and to be re-constituted every four years. The inquiry committee shall be constituted by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. The membership of the inquiry committee shall not be full time salaried employment. But the terms and other conditions of service of the Members of the committee shall be such as may be specified in the notification constituting the inquiry committee. The inquiry committee shall inquire into and report on the allegation against the Judge in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the said Act, i.e. in accordance with the sub-sections (3) to (8) of Section 3 and sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the said Act and submit their report to the Chief Justice of India, who shall place before a committee of seven senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. The Committee of seven Judges shall take a decision as to - whether (a) findings of the inquiry committee are proper and (b) any charge or charges are established against the judge and if so, whether the charges held proved are so serious as to call for his removal (i.e. proved misbehaviour) or whether it should be sufficient to administer a warning to him and/or make other directions with respect to allotment of work to him by the concerned Chief Justice or to transfer him to some other court (i.e. deviant behaviour not amounting to misbehaviour). If the decision of the said committee of judges recommends the removal of the Judge, it shall be a convention that the judge promptly demits office himself. If he fails to do so, the matter will be processed for being placed before Parliament in accordance with articles 124(4) and 217(1) Proviso (b). This procedure shall equally apply in case of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts except that in the case of a Supreme Court Judge the judge against whom complaint is received or inquiry is ordered, shall not participate in any proceeding affecting him.

    Sweena Jain

    9 years ago

    Judiciary is not only confused but is also biased which can be seen from today's news about Sukhram 1993 scam.As Mr.Sukhram was then a minister has been held guilty in scam committed in 1993.He played all tricks initially and was granted interim bail till today i.e 16/01/2012 by Supreme Court.And today extended bail till August 2012.Now everybody doubts whether Mr.Sukhram will ever go to jail at all.Then why waste public money and time in such cases.The ministers and MP's should given immunity for all their acts whether in public interest or against public. And our judiciary is famed for delay which leads to corruption.GOD same Indians.

    REPLY

    Dr V P Sharma

    In Reply to Sweena Jain 9 years ago

    Bang on the point Sweena.

    Dr Vaibhav Dhoka

    9 years ago

    Judiciary has miserably failed to reign in errant and corrupt judges.The reason is India inherited British laws blindly which were dictatorial as they wanted tame Indian and to rule.The handful Britishers ruled for about 1 1/2 century.And their laws were colonial,and what we needed was PANCH system that is settlement of disputes at local level.The British laws have procedural chain which laid to DELAY in JUSTICE.The second most important is SECRECY and JUDICIARY embedded the fear of CONTEMPT in mind of common man who dare not the speak and complaint against an errant JUDGE.And with failure of superior courts in its supervisory jurisdiction the corruption became routine action.Because the investigation in corruption complaint is totally different in justice system as against bureaucracy and other departments.It has failed in all aspect in public eye and due this failure the crime has increased manifold as there is no fear of Law in common MAN. Muscle power took over long back and its due to judicial failure.This is due to errant judges have failed exercise due diligence to be RESPECTED.

    REPLY

    Dr V P Sharma

    In Reply to Dr Vaibhav Dhoka 9 years ago

    We cannot fault the British laws. Our laws are exhaustive enough to deliver justice. Its not a system failure but failure on the part of people behind the system.

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