Accountability is the core principle of any democracy. In our democracy it is only the executive and the legislature which is held accountable and not the judiciary. Judges are also public officials and hence should be made accountable.
It is essential to ensure accountability of the judges to ensure public confidence in the judicial system. Accountability will help in reducing incidences of nepotism by the judges. Judges being given political posts like in “Justice Sathasivam” case who became the governor of Kerala post retirement raises questions about political influence affecting the judiciary. Moreover, judgements have huge ramifications in the society hence to make judgements more prudent; judges need to be made accountable.
Impeachment is a legal procedure for the removal of judges on grounds of ”proven misbehavior or misconduct’ but it is far too lengthy and cumbersome procedure. No judge has ever been impeached till date stands testimony to the fact that judiciary enjoys undisputed power. Even in cases like that of Judge Veeraswami, Judge Ramaswami where this procedure was initiated, were not finally completed.
Independence of the judiciary means independence from the executive and legislative and not lack of accountability. The yardstick or parameters to judge accountability and proper procedures for their performance assessment needs to evolve (though debated, discussed) so as not to denigrate judges or do character assassination but to ensure objective, fair and just accountability of judiciary.
Proven methods like a system of evaluation by trained court observers who make unscheduled court visits to evaluate Judges on their knowledge of law, integrity, communication skills, and impartiality may be experimented.
Additionally, leading universities should publish journals criticizing any misjudgment. It is important to implement bills like the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill to enforce a reasonable level of restriction. Even countries like Denmark and Sweden have institutions to look into special courts to hear complaints against the judges. However, it is essential that the judicial accountability does not hamper the feature of independent judiciary in any way as it would hamper the most essential feature for staying unbiased.
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