Accountability law must not encroach on judicial independence, cautions CJI

FP

While clarifying that the judiciary was not afraid of a new legislation to make it accountable, Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia cautioned the Centre on Wednesday against trampling upon the independence of the judiciary.

"The government may make a law for making judges accountable. We are not afraid of that. But it should not tinker with the very constitutional principle of judicial independence. Judicial accountability should be balanced with judicial independence," he said, in an apparent reference to the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. Cleared by the Lok Sabha, the Bill is pending in the Upper House.

Speaking at the Independence Day celebrations in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice also urged Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who was present, to involve eminent jurists in matters relating to the judiciary. "Be it a collegium system, be it the accountability Bill, or whatever law you bring, please take the opinion of eminent jurists," he told Khurshid.

Justice Kapadia called for wide-ranging studies and consultations before any tinkering was done with the Constitution. Any disturbance in the balance of power between legislative, executive and judiciary would "damage the Constitution for all time to come", he warned, adding that judiciary was the oxygen of democracy.

Justice Kapadia admitted that there have been cases of "judicial overreach" by judges, disturbing this balance. "Sometimes in our anxiety to do justice, we give judgments which disturb the constitutional balance," he said, cautioning judges.

Giving own example, Justice Kapadia said: "It is only in India that a person of the Parsi community of 1.6 lakh population can aspire to be the Chief Justice."

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