New Delhi: Mulling over provision to ensure that the post-retirement conduct of the judges do not undermine the office, former Chief Justice of India (CJI) J S Verma on Saturday strongly favoured the Judicial Conduct and Accountability Bill.

Participating at a seminar organised by Bar Association of India on the Judicial Conduct and Accountability Bill, 2010, Justice Verma said, "The bill must have a provision to ensure that the post-retirement conduct of the judges do not undermine the office that they have held.”

The Bill was introduced in Parliament in the last winter session and is now being examined by a parliamentary panel.

Eminent jurist Fali S Nariman said judges should not be given any legal cover against their post-retirement prosecution.

Instead of seeking a new legal provision for post-retirement conduct of judges, Nariman said it can be achieved merely by repealing the Judges Protection Act,
1985.

"All misdemeanours which cannot be taken care of during impeachment can be taken care of after they retire. Also, it is only when they have no immunity after retirement that the advocates will speak up," he said.

The two legal luminaries concurred on having a mechanism to control judges' post-retirement affairs, despite sharply differing on the need for having a separate law like the Judicial Conduct and Accountability Bill, 2010, for accountability and transparency in higher judiciary.

Disfavouring enactment of the bill, Nariman said, "I have read the Bill and I would tell the Law Minister that I did not like it. The bill provides that any member of public can complaint against a judge, which may be democratic but not necessary for judiciary."

"All and sundry deluging the government with complaints against judges will demean the judiciary," he said.

Fearing an adverse impact of the bill on judicial independence, a basic feature of the constitution, he said "the condemnation of a few (judges), when retired, is better than to discipline them when they are sitting."

Comparing the proposed bill with the American system of judicial counsel for judicial transparency and accountability there, he said that "with the present media exposure and the disgruntled litigants, it is not for India."

But Justice Verma argued for having a judicial transparency and accountability law, saying it will only help in strengthening the judiciary.

Seeking to highlight what he called ‘omissions’ of the proposed bill, he said the bill should not threaten complainants with action for contempt of court.

"Fear of contempt of court for speaking truth should no more be there", he said.

Maintaining that majority of the judges are honest, Justice Verma said since most complaints against judges may not be correct, results of investigations into such frivolous and false complaints should be made public.

He also took a dig at the practice by some judges for submitting their affidavits before Tribunals etc on their letter heads in return for monetary considerations.

He suggested "the apex court judges may be given their salary as life-long pension."

Justice Verma's views to have a law to ensure judicial transparency and accountability was supported by various other legal luminaries including former Attorney General Ashok Desai, senior counsel Anil Divan and advocate Prashant
Bhushan.

Supporting the bill, Bar Association of India president Divan described CJI S H Kapadia's step in asking Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati about the status of probe into complaint against NHRC chairman and former CJI K G Balakrishnan "a step toward transparency."

Prahsant Bhushan, who has been vocal about judicial accountability, found the bill as having too many "loopholes" in it.

Bhushan, who is facing contempt of court charges for his remarks against CJI S H Kapadia, said another problem is the provision of contempt.

(Agencies)