NEW DELHI (TIP): In a departure from the rigid stand taken by his predecessor, Union law minister Ashwani Kumar has sought to review the controversial clause in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill that prohibits judges from making unwarranted comments against any constitutional authority in open court during hearing of cases.
Kumar, who called for the file immediately after joining office, has hinted to his officials that Section 3(2)(g) of the bill that has been at the centre of a spat between the higher judiciary and the government, should be dropped and a revised draft of the bill be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. Former law minister Salman Khurshid, who has taken over as external affairs minister, was firm that the specific provision would stay in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2012. Khurshid had said the government had taken note of certain remarks by some higher courts on constitutional bodies and other authorities in open court, which were seldom reflected in writing during judicial pronouncements.
“That is why a specific provision has been proposed to be made under Section 3 of the chapter on judicial standards to be followed by judges, in the Judicial Standards Bill,” Khurshid had said. Section 3(2)(g) of the bill prohibits judges from making unwarranted comments against the conduct of any constitutional or statutory authority at the time of hearing matters, which are pending before them or are likely to arise for judicial determination. The government also proposes to accord statutory sanction to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life, which was adopted by a resolution at the full court meeting of the Supreme Court in 1997, by making it a part of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 29 and is pending consideration in Rajya Sabha after the introduction of fresh amendments. After changes are incorporated and the bill is passed by the upper House, it will again have to be presented in the Lok Sabha. The spat between the judiciary and the government over the gag clause has been going on for some time with critics saying that judges make comments to play to the gallery as many such observations don’t find mention in the verdicts. Judges themselves are split on the issue. Some say that the questions they raise on constitutional authorities may put a misleading picture on the issue under consideration.