Govt open to allay doubts on proposed law for judges



New Delhi: Government is open to address the concerns raised on the proposed law for accountability in the higher judiciary and ready to make improvements in it, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said on Saturday.

"Even at this stage, after the lower house of Parliament has passed the bill, if there are any doubts, if any improvements are needed or required, we shall make it," he said, while speaking at a convention on rule of law, here.

Khurshid was responding to the remarks made by former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, who yesterday at the same forum, had expressed his resentment saying that he felt "demeaned and insulted" by the proposed Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.

The minister said government was fulfilling the demand of the civil society which has pitched for radical reforms demanding that accountability must reach even the judiciary.

However, Khurshid said he cannot overlook the views of members associated with the judiciary as the government was committed to "enlightened form of legislation" in this regard.

"I came to know about the views (on the proposed law) of someone (Justice JS Verma) for whom I have immense respect, through newspaper reports and I cannot overlook responding to his views," he said.

"We need an enlightened form of legislation, and views and suggestions from everyone are welcome," he added.

Khurshid said that he was under the impression that the general public, including the civil society was demanding that accountability should not be limited just to the legislature and the executive, but should also reach the judiciary, and that the government was working to fulfil this demand through the proposed law.

"My impression was that there was a sense in the nation, especially from the members of the civil society who have made a pitch for radical reforms in the country, demanding from me that accountability must reach even the judiciary."

"I believe what we were doing is work towards fulfilling this demand," the minister said.

He was quick to make it clear that while the demand for accountability of the higher judiciary were being met, at the same time the government kept the principle of independence of judiciary in mind.

"At the same time we have kept the priniciple of independence of the Judiciary in mind," he said.

Justice Verma while speaking at the same convention yesterday had said that he was "demeaned and insulted that a law was needed to regulate our actions" and warned the judiciary that if they don't self regulate, someone else will do it for them.

The Bill seeks to lay down judicial standards, provide for accountability of judges, and establish mechanisms for investigating individual complaints for misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge of the Supreme Court or High Courts and also provides a mechanism for the removal of judges.

PTI