Detailed code of conduct for judges in new Bill

While finalising a new law to check corruption and increase accountability in the higher judiciary, the Union Law Ministry has also decided to include a comprehensive code of conduct for judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Sources told The Indian Express that this was being done as voluntary attempts by the higher judiciary to lay down a code of conduct had not yielded the desired result.

According to sources associated with the drafting of the Judges Standards and Accountability Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the next session of Parliament, the code of conduct would be on the same lines as the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life, which the Full Court of the Supreme Court had adopted on May 7, 1997. The restatement was ratified and adopted by the higher judiciary in the Chief Justices Conference of 1999 as well as by Full Courts of all High Courts.

"Since the judiciary has time and again said that the Restatement of Values is not legally binding and not enforceable through judicial orders as it didn't have the force of law, we plan to include a detailed list of do's and don'ts in the proposed law. The failure of a sitting judge to adhere to the same will be considered an act of impropriety and, hence, punishable," said a source.

The source also clarified that the Ministry was not simply planning to "cut and paste" the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life. Rather, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily will discuss the same with the Chief Justice of India and request him to give the judiciary's point of view.

"There will be additions and alterations. The list that we put in the new law could be more exhaustive and clearer," said the source.

The Restatement of Values of Judicial Life the 16-point charter meant to serve as a "guide for the judges, essential for independent, strong and respected judiciary, indispensable in the impartial administration of justice" asks judges to ensure that justice is not merely done, it is also seen as having been done. It asks them not to contest election to any office of a club, society or other association and also not hold any elective office, except in a society or association connected with the law.

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