Undoubtedly the most important criterion for assessing the worth of a society is the quality of justice it delivers. In India the judicial system is under a cloud. Judges have been discovered to be corrupt. Court judgments too often are bizarre and irrational to make a serious dent on the credibility of the justice system. How might the judiciary be improved? The human quality of the judges is wanting. The character of those who must deliver has an impact on the working of the system. But it is equally true that the system has an impact on the character of those who must deliver. What kind of systemic reforms might we consider that improve the human quality of judges? The following ideas suggest themselves.
First, the judiciary must be insulated from the political class. To achieve that a Judicial Commission comprising retired judges and legal luminaries should be appointed to decide the appointment, promotion, demotion and transfer of judges. Judges must be freed from the power of the cabinet. The Judicial Commission must be made accountable to the President of India as became the Election Commission under compulsion of events during the tenure of Mr TN Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner. This implies a reappraisal of the President’s own role vesting Rashtrapati Bhawan with responsibilities not presently discharged by the President. This implies a major reform of the entire system.
Secondly, judges should be given a special moral status as is owned by priests. For that judges should possess specialized training imparted by recognized institutions and pass a test before qualifying for a judicial service for life that disallows them entering any other service, business or employment after retirement. This implies emoluments and pensions that provide full comfort and security to judges for life. The retirement age of judges may be raised to seventy years and the decision to retire them before that age should be left to the discretion of the Judicial Commission.
Thirdly, the huge backlog of pending cases should be cleared by emergency measures. Thereafter it should be mandatory that every case be disposed off within six months. If new evidence emerges the case may either be reopened or a fresh case may be registered.
These are some of the measures that may be considered to improve the quality of judges which after all determine the quality of the justice system in a country. Workshop # 17