SC declined to answer whether mechanism is in force or not
SUPREME COURT officials have given a quiet burial to a mechanism for
probing allegations of corruption and misconduct against judges,
curtailing the citizens' right to raise voice against such acts.
In response to a query under the RTI Act, the court declined to
provide details of whether the mechanism to probe complaints against
judges - which was agreed upon by the Supreme Court judges in 1999 and
called the In-House Procedure - was still in force or not.
The In-House Procedure empowered the Chief Justice of India and High
Court Chief Justices to initiate disciplinary proceedings on
allegations against judges.
"Matters covered under the resolutions like In-House Procedure are not
handled by the Court Registry and therefore the related information is
not under the control of the Chief Principal Information Officer,
Supreme Court. Hence, your request cannot be acceded to," Additional
Registrar of the court said in his reply.
The court officials also refused to divulge any information on how
many judges in the country faced corrup- tion allegations and whether
any action was taken against them.
Though the officials were evasive in the RTI replies, their recent
submission before the Central Information Commission made it clear
that the In-House Procedure had been quietly done away with.
"The court has no machinery to enforce the code of conduct. Under the
Constitution of India, a judge can be removed only by impeachment by a
two-thirds majority of the House. The Supreme Court or the Chief
Justice of India in courts' hierarchy has no disciplinary control over
any of the judges and are not vested with any power to decide about
the conduct of a judge," the Supreme Court counsel informed the CIC.
Senior lawyer and RTI activist Prashant Bhushan countered the Supreme
Court argument saying: "The court's reply is misleading. The In-House
Procedure was adopted in a full meeting of the Supreme Court in 1999,
attended by 19 judges. How can they now say that neither the court nor
the CJI have any powers. What happened to the Procedure? It means it
was never activated."
The CIC said the Supreme Court's reply was "confusing", but declined
to issue any direction to the court officials. "There is a certain
degree of confusion resulting from the information supplied by the
respondents (Supreme Court). The basic question sought to be answered
was how to activate code of conduct in order to initiate an inquiry.
It is also correct that the report of the committee on the In-House
Procedure addressed this issue."
The Supreme Court's reluctance to implement the InHouse Procedure has
drawn sharp reactions from top jurists including former CJI J.S. Verma
and former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani. "Such lapses would only make
the judiciary vulnerable to political interference in the name of
accountability," they said.
The demand for transparency in judiciary has been steadily gaining
momentum, with different sections of the society pushing it to open up
for public scrutiny to boost its public image. firstname.lastname@example.org