The new Union Law Minister Salman Khursheed faces a number of challenges confronting the judiciary and he has to take forward the legal reforms initiated by his predecessor Veerappa Moily.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee, to which the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, has been referred, is expected to submit its report soon and Mr. Khursheed will have to ensure that the Bill is adopted in the monsoon session.
The Bill lays down judicial standards to enable declaration of assets and liabilities by judges and to establish a mechanism to enable investigation and follow-up action into complaints against them.
In 2009, the Ministry released a “Vision Statement,” which spelt out the government’s intention to revisit the 1993 Supreme Court judgment providing for collegium system of judicial appointments. Several parliamentary standing committees on the Law Ministry had asked the Centre to bring in a Constitution amendment Bill to revisit the 1993 judgment, giving primacy to the judiciary over the executive in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. The new Minister has to take a decision on this Bill.
With growing criticism on lack of transparency in judges’ appointment and transfer, the Centre should also initiate the process for implementing the long-felt demand to set up a National Judicial Commission, which has been under the government’s consideration for quite some time.
The Bill on increasing the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 has been examined by the Standing Committee and Mr. Khursheed is expected to ensure its passage in the monsoon session.
The ‘Vision Statement’ also envisages periodic release of under-trial prisoners and the new Minister must interact with the States and High Courts to ensure that the under-trials languishing in jails are released on bail or their cases concluded expeditiously.
On Mr. Moily taken out of the portfolio, legal circles feel that despite the fact that he had lots of ideas and programmes for legal reforms, his interaction with the judiciary was not frequent. Since he was also concentrating on party affairs, he could not devote much time for judicial appointments and other measures to streamline the judiciary.
There was also a feeling in the government that the resignation issue of Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam could have been handled in a dignified way. Hindu