New Delhi: In a setback to the United Progressive Alliance government, a united Opposition on Monday stalled in the Rajya Sabha the introduction of a controversial Bill, which seeks declaration of judges’ assets without making them public.
Law minister M. Veerappa Moily was forced to defer the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill, 2009 after the Opposition, including Bharatiya Janata Party and Left, took strong objection to clause VI of the Bill which states that high court and Supreme Court judges would declare their assets but the same would not be made public.
After failing to muster support of the Opposition and sensing the mood of the House, including from the Congress members, Moily said, “It (introduction of the Bill) is deferred.”
Opposition to a bill at the introduction stage itself is a rare phenomenon prompting deputy chairman K. Rahman Khan to cite an earlier ruling and seek the opinion of the House.
The Congress has to go by consensus as in the 245-member Upper House, the party and its allies have a strength of 79.
Moily dismissed suggestions that the bill was circulated among the judiciary before being brought to the House.
At present, there is only an internal mechanism created by Supreme Court on the declaration of assets by judges. “There is no law (to deal with the issue),” he said. “We found a lot of corruption in many places in judiciary. We need to deal with that,” the minister said.
Observing that government can hardly do anything with regard to corruption in judiciary, Moily said judges could not even be impeached. Only one issue is pending for which the Rajya Sabha chairman has constituted a committee to look into the issue.
He said the government proposes to bring a comprehensive judges enquiry bill that will deal with the issue of corruption on a much wider scale. “We are working a roadmap on judicial reforms,” he said. A national consultation would be held later this month, Moily said.
Making a demand for reference of the bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Congress parliamentarian Jayanthi Natrajan said it may be violative of Right to Information Act.
Lawyer Ram Jethmalani said the bill violates the basic feature of the Constitution. He described it as “conspiracy in corruption” and said the government was destroying the independence of judiciary by giving them a favour. “It creates suspicion that judiciary is seeking favour...”
CPM member D. Raja said the proposed legislation cannot be accepted and nobody was above the law.