Who appoints the High Court and Supreme Court judges? Who is accountable for the functioning of the court and passing of judgements? From transparency in appointment of judges to delays due to adjournment of cases to large number of advocate vacancies and issues surrounding contempt of court proceedings were some of the topics discussed at length at the one-day national conference on Independence of Judiciary and Judicial Accountability held in the Capital recently.
Organised by the VIT University School Of Law, Chennai, the conference was attended by top judges, advocates, academicians, scholars, civil society members and students.
Addressing the meet, Dr G Viswanathan, founder and Chancellor, VIT University, said: “To maintain democracy, we have to be accountable to the people. Independence of Judiciary and Judicial Accountability are crucial subjects. For hiring judges, a new committee has been set-up to draft new procedures for the hiring of Judges which should be acceptable both to the Judiciary and Executive. Not just the hiring of judges, the number of vacancies available for advocates is also a lot. As on November 2016, all the 24 High Courts put together, the approved strength is 1079 of which there are 500 vacancies now. In a year, 17000 judges are required to complete the pending cases.”
The chief guest, Justice D Murugesan, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and NHRC Member, said: “Judicial independence is ensured by the Constitution. The conflict arises when the Governments puts unpleasant issues, like inter-state water disputes, before the courts. The Judiciary should be transparent in its working. Interference with the Judiciary by any of the other two wings of governance — the Legislature or the Executive — will impair the independence of the Judiciary.”
With a change in the mechanism to appoint judges (shift from executive appointments to the collegium model), yet another reform is being advocated as both models have been found unsatisfactory in attaining judicial independence.
The desirability for a suitable model stems from the single factor of retaining independence of the judiciary from the Government and the Legislature. Independence of the Judiciary is connected to a host of issues like accountability, efficiency, impartiality and respect for the Constitution. It is an arduous yet crucial matter that needs to be ensured.
Discussions on judicial accountability revolved around variety of aspects, including willingness of the Judiciary to objectively look into the allegations made against judges so as to instill and retain confidence in the Judiciary.
Ms Kadhambari S Viswanathan, assistant vice-president, VIT University, Dr Anand S Samuel, vice-chancellor, VIT University, and Prof Gandhi M, Dean, VIT School of Law, also addressed the gathering.