‘National Judicial Council will safeguard judiciary’s independence’

July 29th, 2008 - 5:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, July 29 (IANS) The proposed National Judicial Council (NJC) for selection of judges will help safeguard the independence of the judiciary and ensure its accountability to the society and constitution, says Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. In his article titled “Justice - Justice, Warrants Social Vision” in the July issue of Kerala Calling, a state government publication, Balakrishnan wrote: “The NJC would help safeguard the independence of the judiciary and ensure judicial accountability to the society and constitution.”

“With this prime object, fundamental changes have to be made in the mode of appointment of judges bearing in mind that they are part of a constitutional mechanism. They act as the watch dogs of constitution and protector of rights and liberties of the citizens.”

Currently, for the selection of a judge to the high court, a three-member panel of gthe Supreme Court judges recommends a list of advocates and forwards it to the union law ministry, the chief justice and the governor.

According to Balakrishnana, the NJC will comprise of senior judges, the law minister, the advocate general, and senior advocates of high courts and the apex court. He feels this will streamline the process of appointment of judges.

“Judicial accountability is a constitutional vision intending to usher the confidence of the general public in the institution of justice. The judges act for the people who have reposed their faith and confidence in them.”

“It is a matter of despondency that most of the lawyers and judges are hailing from aristocratic and wealthy families. To make matters worse, the present system of selection of judges is done by a board consisting of judges only and most of them belong to such category. The present chief justice is, however, an exemption,” Blakrishnan wrote.

However, many do not agree with the minister.

K.T. Thomas, a retired Supreme Court judge, says the NJC is not a solution for the problems facing the judiciary.

“The intolerance of any political party towards the judiciary always comes when it is in power. Even in the present set-up, the chief minister of the state can write to the governor if he has any reservations about any particular person becoming a judge,” said Thomas.

Recalling an instance in the earlier this decade, Thomas said the then chief justice of the Kerala High Court Jawaharlal Gupta wrote to all judges to give a list of advocates who should be considered for appointment as judges.

“For six months Gupta closely observed the performance of those advocates whose names figured in the list. It was only after that a selection was made. I feel that is the best way to choose judges,” he said.

Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy says the present system of selection judges is appropriate.

“It is the job of the executive and the legislature to look into social aspects because the judiciary works with a lot of limitations. The present system of selection of judges is fair enough,” he said.

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