Keep PM, higher judiciary out of its purview

The former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, on Saturday reiterated that the higher judiciary and the Prime Minister should be out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal Bill. He favours a “separate mechanism” to make High Court and Supreme Court judges accountable for misconduct.

Speaking on the “Role of judiciary in good governance” at the International Centre Goa here, Justice Verma said he was definitely for judicial independence and accountability. However, it was the manner of accountability that was being debated. It was felt that since a separate mechanism under the proposed Judicial Accountability Bill was on the anvil, the higher judiciary need not be within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. He also favoured the continuation of the mechanism under which the lower judiciary is accountable to the higher judiciary.

“Lokpal is not a panacea for all ills. If Lokpal goes wrong, where will the people go? Therefore, the mechanism to enforce accountability need not be same for everybody.” As for the inclusion of the Prime Minister, Justice Verma said issues such as international implications of political instability, possible alternatives and mechanisms inherent in the political process itself, etc., needed to be broadly considered. Pointing out that the issues of Prime Minister and higher judiciary were different and needed different mechanisms to deal with their accountability and corruption, he said: “If a Supreme Court judge goes, only he goes, whereas when a Prime Minister goes, his entire Cabinet goes. Therefore, every aberration needs to be considered and a mechanism worked out for correction.”

Speaking about good governance, the former CJI said: “It is time we do not confine ourselves to good governance but [take up] ‘humane governance' as that is what is provided for in the Constitution.”

Justice Verma said judicial intervention had to be necessarily in the public good. As long as the judiciary exercised its power in the public good, its credibility would remain. “If you transgress that limit, it becomes judicial tyranny.”

He said the statutory function had to be performed by a statutory body. The judiciary could legitimately make an authority concerned to perform its task but “you cannot take over and do the performance yourself.”

‘Both decisions wrong'

Earlier, speaking at a press conference, Justice Verma, in reply to a question, said both the Central government's decisions — to send Union Ministers to woo Yoga guru Baba Ramdev at the Delhi airport and evicting the people (women and children) sleeping on the Ramlila Maidan at night through police action — were wrong.

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