Aditi S. Verghese & Albin G. Thomas writes about the origin and sources of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010.
In the wake of a perceptible increase in the number of allegations raised against judges of the higher judiciary, there have been efforts to overhaul the mechanism by which judges are monitored. The most recent of these is the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 1st December 2010, by M. Veerappa Moily.
The Constituent Assembly limited the power of the legislature to regulate the procedure for removal of a judge under Article 124(5). The current Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 reflects that. The Bill intends to repeal the existing Act which lays down the procedure by which judges of the higher judiciary may be removed, and replace that mechanism with a less cumbersome one. In the years since Independence, the process for impeaching a judge has only been invoked once. The impeachment motion against Justice Ramaswami did not receive the required majority in the Lok Sabha as the Congress decided to abstain from voting.
Aside from laying down a procedure for the removal of a judge, the Bill makes it mandatory for judges to declare their assets and liabilities. It also lays down legally binding judicial standards.
This paper deals with the theoretical debate between judicial independence and judicial accountability and its applicability in the current situation. It examines the different aspects covered by the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill and the sources from which they are derived. Understanding the contexts in which the various parts of the Bill were formulated will help shed light on the shape it has taken today and the way in which it will be implemented.