Shortcomings of the ‘In House inquiry Procedure’

Synopsis: The shortcomings of the ‘in house inquiry procedure’ of the Supreme Court has again come to the limelight. This time over the appointment of the future CJI itself. The upcoming CJI is facing serious allegations of misconduct, but there is no clarity of ‘In House inquiry Procedure’ in the concerned matter.

  1. The upcoming CJI will assume office as the 48th CJI (Chief Justice of India) on 24th April 2021. 
  2. This would make him master of the roster and give him the power to constitute benches in every case of the Supreme court. This includes the creation of inquiry committees for the In House inquiry Procedure also. 
  3. Thus allowing him to constitute a bench in his own case as well. This will give rise to the development of bias and undermine judicial impartiality.

What are the allegations? 

  1. The current CM of Andhra Pradesh has accused the upcoming CJI and one other Judge of abusing their judicial position. The CM also wrote a letter to the present CJI in this regard in October 2020.
  2. The allegation related to the creation of favourable benches to support the opposition party in Andhra Pradesh.
  3. In 2017 as well, a senior Supreme Court judge had addressed the upcoming CJI in the same issue. He also wrote a letter to the then CJI.
  4. Nonetheless, the issue has certainly highlighted the shortcomings of the In House inquiry procedure of the Supreme Court.
In House inquiry Procedure:
  • It was formulated by the higher judiciary in 1997. It helps in determining whether a judge has acted against accepted values of judicial life or not.
  • Under this, a compliant of misconduct may be filed by any person to CJI or the President of India.
  • The CJI will then examine the complaint, he/she may constitute a 3 member committee for inquiry or dispose of the complaint as per his discretion.
Shortcomings of the ‘In House inquiry Procedure’:
  1. There are no timelines for the completion of the inquiry. So the inquiry time is getting unnecessary delays.
  2. The procedure gives wide discretionary powers to CJI. This can breed favouritism in Judiciary. 
  3. Further, the procedure doesn’t forbid the CJI from being part of his/her own complaint of misconduct. Thereby undermining the principle of natural justice.
  4. There is no need to disclose the report of the inquiry into the public domain or to the complainant. This is against transparency in the Judiciary.
Suggestions to improve the In House inquiry procedure:
  1. As the issue revolves around high constitutional offices, the allegations deserve a thorough, expeditious and transparent inquiry.
  2. Post inquiry a remedial measure should be taken like:
    • Inducing the concerned judges to resign if he is guilty of misconduct. Further initiation of removal proceedings can also be started if judges don’t honour the resignation request.
  3. Citizens should be informed regarding the inquiry committees outcomes. This would strengthen trust in the functioning of the judiciary. 

The Bar Council of India has failed to demand greater transparency in the inquiry process. Now, the masses are the last hope to reform the self-serving and non-transparent judicial setup.

Source: The Hindu

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