The Evolution of Judicial Accountability in India

Bhairav Acharya


The Judicial Standards Bill of 2010 was the culmination of many attempts to introduce accountability for judicial misbehaviour and indiscipline. There have been a growing number of reports of judicial misconduct – including, notably, an admission from a sitting Chief Justice in 2001 of many corrupt judges. But past attempts to discipline judges have been shot down on the ground that they interfere with judicial independence. One of the reasons for the lack of regulation is that Constituent Assembly simply did not consider judicial accountability in enough detail. The Assembly was primarily concerned with the mechanics of removing judges, not with measures to discipline them. The Judges Act of 1968 was first statute to regulate the impeachment process. It is very brief; it has only been invoked once, and it failed to achieve its objective when invoked. The judiciary has evolved an ad hoc internal mechanism to deal with that hiatus called the ‘minor measures’ approach. The main punishment handed out by the ‘minor measures’ approach is transfer. The only way to break through this logjam is for a statute to introduce scalable responses to judicial misconduct, mindful of the “hiatus,” with firm warnings and punishments, a due process regime, and which does not interfere with judicial independence.

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