But don’t lose sight of judicial independence, he tells govt

Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia, while making it clear that the judiciary was not afraid of laws to make judges accountable, cautioned the government not to tinker with its independence.

“I would request the government that accountability be balanced with judicial independence.” In enacting laws, the concept of judicial independence should not be lost sight of. For, “decisional independence and structural independence are more important when you are required to balance accountability and judicial independence,” he said speaking at the Independence Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association here on Wednesday.

Justice Kapadia was apparently referring to the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha. A controversial clause states: “No judge shall make unwarranted comments against the conduct of any constitutional or statutory institution or officials at the time of hearing matters in open court.” The Bill allows citizens to complain against erring judges but has been facing criticism for this provision and the government is contemplating amending it.

Justice Kapadia said “The government may make laws, making the judges accountable. We are not afraid of that. The question is in that process constitutional tinkering should be done very carefully. We need to take opinions of eminent jurists who will give objective opinion, jurists coming from all sections; otherwise, I am afraid that with the state of drafting of laws in our country today, we will be taking a very big risk and we will be disturbing the constitutional balance, which we will be regretting for all time to come.”

Therefore, “be it a collegial system, be it accountability or whatever laws you bring, please take the opinion of eminent jurists, please consider the comparative juridical aspects all over the world. Everywhere we find some drawbacks. We need to make a detailed study before we tinker with the constitution and particularly with judicial independence. Please don’t suffocate justice and I am sure it will not be done,” Justice Kapadia said, turning to Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who was present.

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