Union law minister Veerappa Moily has been repeatedly reiterating that the Judges Standards and Accountability Bill will ensure that judges are accountable. He emphasises the point yet again in an interview to Chandrani Banerjee. Excerpts:
What are your views on corruption in the higher judiciary?
The Indian courts have the highest credibility in the world. I agree there could be black sheep. But to say that the entire judiciary is corrupt is somewhat irresponsible.
So you do agree there are black sheep. To what level has corruption steeped into the judiciary?
Is there any legal instrument to measure the percentage of corruption? Yes, the cases have come out in the open and it has certainly been noticed. It is not that the government has turned a blind eye towards it. There are enough measures that we have planned and it will soon be there for everyone to see.
Recently a senior advocate and former law minister claimed that nearly half of the last 16 chief justices of the Supreme Court were corrupt. Do you think it’s high time that the government addresses the issue?
I would like to answer the question in two parts. Firstly, shouldn’t senior people like Shanti Bhushan come forward and help the government to form a public opinion in bringing in the Judges Standards and Accountability Bill instead of making such sweeping statements? He himself was a law minister. What were the measures he took to keep the judiciary free of corruption? If you want to bring in change, be the change. Such a sweeping statement without corroboration is nothing but sensationalising issues. Secondly about the measures—the government is already working on it. There are several consultations involving senior members of the judiciary, advocates and thinkers which have all been accommodated in the bill, and it should work as a deterrent.
How will the bill ensure that the judiciary is clean?
The bill will be before the cabinet in ten days and in all probability we will table it before Parliament in the winter session. It will surely address all the problems and ensure that the judiciary remains spotlessly clean and transparent. The bill has provisions to keep tainted judges out of the judiciary. It will have measures that will ensure that at the screening level, if any advocate or judge is facing any allegations, he/she will not figure in the list of probables. Also, we are starting a systemised way of promoting district judges through the national judicial services.