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"If I Am Prima Facie Satisfied, I Will Request The Judge To Resign"

New CJI G.B. Pattanaik spoke to Bhavdeep Kang on judicial accountability and the recent allegations of misconduct against HC judges

T. Narayan
"If I Am Prima Facie Satisfied, I Will Request The Judge To Resign"
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
You and your predecessors have expressed concern over judicial corruption.
What I have said is that we hear murmuring and whispering without any data in support of that. And that is why we are not in a position to take any action. I will request any citizen, in possession of any evidence, without any fear, to produce the same, so that we can deal with it.

What action can be taken in such a case?
There's an in-house procedure. In the event I am prima facie satisfied that there exists some material, we will have an in-house inquiry. If the finding is in the affirmative, I may require the concerned judge to resign. If he doesn't oblige, then I will see what further steps can be taken to proceed in accordance with the constitutional provisions.

Isn't impeachment too involved a process, as we have seen in the Ramaswami case?
Well, that's the constitutional provision. Until an amendment is carried out, no one can alter this provision. It's for those who have to (implement) those proceedings to see what should be done in such instances.

Do you feel the need for a special body to investigate complaints against judges?
If you set up a body or give the investigation to existing investigative agencies, it will be disastrous, knowing fully well how investigative agencies function in this country. Therefore, to maintain the independence of the judiciary along with an effort to see that its image is not tarnished, the only way is to hold an inquiry in-house.

What about the proposal for a National Judicial Commission?
I am of the opinion that if it is constituted, its working will be very, very difficult. With the prime minister, home minister and law minister in the body, as well as the CJI and three senior judges, it is difficult to get a convenient time for all of them to meet and decide. As far as the antecedents of the appointees is concerned, the collegium gets information from different sources which I don't think the PM or the home minister or law minister can get.

What action is proposed, apart from transfer, in the Punjab Public Service Commission scandal and the Jaipur sexual harassment case?
Apart from transfer, if I am prima facie satisfied then I can request the judge to resign. No other penal action can be taken. The only other possible action is impeachment and that is a very difficult procedure. So far as Jaipur is concerned, as of now I haven't received any papers or any statement of anybody but I have asked (someone) to collect material and if we get information, certainly we will take steps.

How about the Karnataka case, with allegations of misconduct against three high court judges?
So far as Karnataka is concerned, the chief justice has given a report that there is absolutely no evidence. But I am trying to get information through unofficial sources and if I receive it, I will certainly look into it and do whatever is possible.

What mechanism do you have for an in-house inquiry?
If I have some friends in the judiciary, I can request them to help. I can request any of the judges of the high court. Even judges from Karnataka in the Supreme Court can gather information. We don't need any agency.

But, in that case, everything is decided by the collegium in a closed chamber!
It is not a closed chamber. If a judge is guilty of misconduct or commits an offence, there can be a complaint. With the permission of the CJI, it can be investigated and a report submitted and action taken. Never has the CJI's permission been sought to investigate a complaint regarding misconduct by a judge.

Some feel the judiciary is encroaching on executive function.
I don't think there's any encroachment. Wherever there is any, it is solicited by the executive itself. They don't perform what they are constitutionally bound to, so the court requires them to discharge their obligation, plain and simple. Tobacco causes cancer. If the executive prevents sale and purchase of tobacco, we need not come into the picture.

Some favour restoration of the executive's primacy in judicial appointments.
I don't think the executive ever enjoyed much primacy. The suggestions of the Supreme Court in the matter of appointments are binding when it is reiterated after the proposal is sent back for reconsideration. The Constitution has been interpreted by the court conferring primacy on the court.

Does the higher judiciary enjoy financial autonomy?
Financial autonomy is not there. It would be ideal if it was that way. But its absence is not exactly a constraint.

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