Yearender 2012: Judicial reforms flavour of 2012

Judicial reforms

Judicial reforms were the flavour of the year as the government focused its efforts on bringing a bill on judicial accountability and kept up its plans to change the present system of appointment of judges where the executive has little say.

In March, the Lok Sabha passed an ambitious bill to lay judicial standards but despite two sessions of Parliament the bill could not be brought in the Rajya Sabha.

Besides concentrating its energies on the bill on judicial standards and accountability this year, the government also reiterated its plans to change the present mechanism of appointment of senior judges by a collegium of judges.

The year also saw a change of guard in the Law Ministry with Ashwani Kumar taking over as the new minister from Salman Khurshid, who was made the external affairs minister. Kumar is the third law minister in the UPA II government, with the first M Veerappa Moily now heading the Petroleum Ministry.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha during the Budget session amid din over Telangana issue.

Following stiff opposition by eminent jurists and the higher judiciary, government had agreed to have a relook at a controversial clause which debars judges from making verbal comments against any constitutional authority in open courts.

But the government decided to retain the clause.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December approved amendments to the bill.

While deciding to retain the controversial clause, it has made some changes in it to ensure it "stands the test of Article 14 which deals with equality before law".

The earlier clause prohibited judges from making "unwarranted comments against conduct of any constitutional or statutory authority or statutory bodies or statutory

institutions or any chairperson or member or officer thereof, or on the matters which are pending or likely to arise for judicial determination".

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