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    Courts mum on graft probe device

    Courts mum on graft probe device

    As Reported by Nagendar Sharma in | Page 13 | New Delhi : 08 May 2008

    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.

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