Assets disclosure by judges to be made mandatory: Law Minister

June 27, 2009: The Hindu

NEW DELHI: The Government will soon introduce a Bill in Parliament to make it mandatory for judges to disclose their assets and liabilities. It will also bring in legislation to set up a mechanism for inquiring into cases of corruption among judges, Union Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily said on Friday.

Speaking at a meet-the-press organised by the Press Association here, Mr. Moily said he had asked the Law Secretary to prepare within two days a draft of the Bill on disclosure of assets and liabilities by judges so that it could be sent for Cabinet clearance at the earliest. The Bill was part of the 100-day agenda of the Ministry. It was a wrong notion that the judiciary was against such legislation, the Minister said, adding the government would take it into confidence before the Bill was passed. “We are not on a confrontationist path.¶

On the other Bill to set up a mechanism to probe cases of corruption among judges, he said it was intended to fill a major lacuna — there was no provision for punishment short of impeachment.

Judiciary commission

Unveiling proposals to tone up the judicial system, Mr. Moily said it was planned to establish a national judiciary service on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Foreign Service to enable lateral entries at different levels of the judiciary and to set up a National Judiciary Commission.

Steps would be taken to fill vacancies at different levels. There were five vacancies in the Supreme Court, 251 in the High Courts, and over 3,000 at district and sessions courts. In the Allahabad High Court alone, there were 80 vacancies.

As of March 31, 50,613 cases were pending in the Supreme Court, 38,74,090 cases in High Courts and 2.64 crore cases in district and sessions courts. Measures would be taken to bring down the numbers. “Presently, cases are pending on average for 15 years. This would be brought down to three years.¶

Use of IT

Mr. Moily said discussions were on with National Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda and legal experts on how modern tools of information and communication technology could be used to make the judicial process more effective, affordable and accessible to the common man.

“We are on the job. … The road map for judicial reforms would be ready by September 15.¶

“About 30 per cent of the cases pending in the court were criminal cases. We must wipe them out.¶ On allowing foreign legal firms, Mr. Moily stressed that it would not be possible without a national debate.

“We have to discuss it with an open mind. Unless there is an open debate and unless all stakeholders are taken into confidence, we cannot take any decision.¶

The Minister steered clear of questions on withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act from Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

Family courts

He said 200 more family courts would be opened across the country and commercial courts would be set up in the four metros.

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