'Consultation on setting up of judicial panel in Feb.'

New Delhi Jan. 25. The process of consulting Opposition parties in connection with the constitution of a National Judicial Commission will begin in the first week of February.

Talking to The Hindu, the Union Law Minister, Jana Krishnamurthy, revealed that his Ministry was working with the proposal that such a Commission should have ``representatives from the judiciary, the executive and headed by a Constitutional functionary'' (i.e., the Vice-President).

The proposal varies with that suggested by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. The NCRWC had recommended that the National Judicial Commission was made up of the Chief Justice of India, two senior judges, the Union Law Minister and an eminent person nominated by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice.

Mr. Krishnamurthy said he had an ``open mind'' about the final shape the National Judicial Commission might take. But a structure of the kind he had in mind would make the Commission ``more accountable to Parliament''.

Such a Commission, he said, would deal with the appointment and transfer of judges and also evolve a code of conduct for members of the judiciary. As for disciplinary measures against judges accused of misbehaviour, the Law Minister said he was in favour of a separate body to deal with the issue.

``There should be no interference from the executive in such matters. Disciplinary matters should be left to the judiciary,'' he said. Asked whether the disciplinary mechanism would be established by amending the Judges (Inquiry) Act, Mr. Krishnamurthy said that this was one of the options his Ministry was working with. The other possibility was the introduction of a separate legislation to set up a mechanism to probe charges of misconduct against judges.

The Law Minister said that he did not anticipate any problems in going ahead with such corrective steps to improve the image and the functioning of the judiciary.

He said that after the allegations ``in Karnataka and Rajasthan'' were made public, Members of Parliament cutting across party lines had approached him to underline the importance of mechanisms to probe judicial misconduct.

Necessary legislation for the setting up of a National Judicial Commission would be moved during the budget session of Parliament, he said.

Once the all-party meeting to discuss this issue was over, the Ministry would move very quickly to finalise draft legislation to this effect.

Labelling impeachment procedures as unwieldy, he said most judges also felt the need for a mechanism that gave teeth to the Chief Justice for any action taken on the ground of misconduct.