‘Do prospective high court judges have criminal records?’

September 25th, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has asked the chief justices of the high courts to ascertain if the candidates recommended by them for appointment as judges have a criminal background.Balakrishnan revealed this during a formal interaction with the media in the Supreme Court Judges’ Lounge Thursday, while talking about growing allegations of corruption in the higher judiciary.

“I have requested the chief justices of the high courts to also provide information on whether a candidate recommended by them for appointment as a judge has any criminal case pending against him or whether any bar council has taken any disciplinary action against him,” the chief justice said.

Despite the Chief Justice of India or the Supreme Court having no decisive say in sacking an errant judge of the higher judiciary, found guilty of professional misconduct in an in-house probe by the apex court, Balakrishnan did not favour any change in the prevailing cumbersome process of impeachment of a judge by parliament.

He discarded the idea of the Chief Justice of India having a decisive say in the ouster of an errant judge, saying: “You have to think in the larger perspective. It (the present impeachment process) is to protect the independence of judiciary.”

“Too much simplification (of the process to oust a judge) is not good,” he said.

Asked what if the impeachment process fails and a judge, recommended to be impeached by Chief justice of India himself, continued to be a member of judiciary, Chief Justice Balakrishnan pointed out that he may not be given judicial work.

“That prerogative (to give judicial work) is with us,” he said.

Balakrishnan recently recommended impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High court for “criminal misappropriation” of over Rs.58 million of the high court’s fund.

It is the second ever case of its kind where the sacking of a judge of higher judiciary has been sought.

Though the Congress-led UPA government has expressed its willingness to abide by the recommendation of the Chief Justice, the Constitution does not bind the government to the chief justice’s recommendation in the matter of sacking of a judge.

But undeterred by the fact that impeachment of judges gets highly politicized, the chief justice remarked: “After all, it’s a political decision.”

The chief justice also expressed concern over the rising backlog of cases in lower judiciary and hoped that various high courts would expeditiously conduct the selection process of judges in lower judiciary and fill the vacancy countrywide of 3,239 judges to tackle the problem of rising backlog of cases.

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