Committee suggests law to protect whistle-blowers in judiciary

Committee suggests law to protect whistle-blowers in judiciary

New Delhi: If you want to expose corruption or other forms of misconduct in judiciary, you may soon be able to do so without any fear if Parliament endorses recommendations in this regard.

But, you can be in trouble if the allegations turn out to be false.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice has made a suggestion for protecting whistle-blowers from the dreaded contempt law, till inquiry into such charges, as part of an effort to ensure accountability of judges.

The proposal has been mooted for inclusion in the Judges (Inquiry) Bill 2006 which is expected to be introduced in Parliament shortly.

As per the recommendation, anyone can lodge a complaint about judicial misconduct against any judge, including that of the Supreme Court.

The complainants will be insulated from any contempt of law action as long as the allegations are inquired into.

“Clause 23.80 of the Bill provides for no action for contempt of court in respect of the allegations which are the subject-matter of investigation or inquiry by the (proposed National Judicial) Council," said Committee chairman E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, a Rajya Sabha member.

“Any preliminary investigation or inquiry pending before the Council will not affect the criminal liability in respect of such allegations," said Natchiappan in his report presented to the Union Law ministry recently.

The Bill’s proposed in-house procedure to look into complaints against judges was disapproved by the Committee. It suggested creation of an “empowered committee" comprising representatives from the executive, Parliament and the Bar, for verification, screening and selection of complaints.

It said only genuine public complaints against judges needed to be forwarded for investigation by the proposed five-judge body National Judicial Council — which shall be headed by the Chief Justice of India.

Underscoring the need for keeping the identity of a complainant confidential during investigation, Natchiappan struck down the Bill’s clause on keeping confidential the name of a judge — against whom a complaint is made.

“The Committee is for deletion of the words ‘and also the judge against whom the complaint is made’ because it feels that the judge against whom a complaint is made should have the opportunity to know about the motive of the complainant," the report said.

Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma also favours protection to complainants. In a recent interview to a TV channel, he favoured freedom to raise issues related to judicial misconduct.

“I don’t think that the Indian law permits punishment for speaking the truth," he said, adding provided that authentic evidence is given truth is a valid defence.