The Supreme Court has put its own mechanism in place to impeach top judges after the 16th Amendment of the constitution – which had given this authority to parliament – was declared illegal by the apex court a month ago.
The Supreme Judicial Council, which had been scrapped via the 16th Amendment, has been reinstated and will carry out the process to remove top court judges.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has also approved a 39-point code of conduct for the higher court judges, according to the full text of the verdict scrapping the 16th Amendment which was published on Tuesday.
The judges can now be removed for serious misconduct, disciplinary or criminal offence, or incapacity that renders them unable to discharge their functions.
All the disciplinary action will be based on the established standards of judicial conduct.
The Chief Justice, after receiving a complaint against a judge, will hold an inquiry along with other next two senior-most judges of the Appellate Division.
If the Chief Justice or either of the two senior judges declines to hold a preliminary inquiry, or if the allegation is against any one of them, the judge who is next in seniority will be in charge of the inquiry.
If the inquiry team finds that there is prima facie substance to the allegation, it will make a decision and recommend it to the president.
A complaint against a judge will be processed “expeditiously and fairly” and the judge will have the opportunity to comment on the complaint by writing at the initial stage.
The examination of the complaint at its initial stage will be kept confidential, unless the judge requests otherwise.
The code of conducts for SC judges
The key points of the higher judicial code of conduct are as follows:
Loyalty to the profession:
Judges must establish, maintain and enforce high standards of conduct. They should respect the constitution and laws of the land and act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary. They must maintain professional competence.
Family, social or political influence:
Judge will not allow family, social or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgement. He or she will not hear any matter if his or her spouse or children have a financial or other interest in it or are a party to the proceeding. He or she will not to be swayed by partisan interests.
High standard of attitude, professionalism:
A Supreme Court judge must be patient, dignified, respectful and courteous to litigants, lawyers, law officers and subordinates. They will avoid inordinate delay in delivering justice and to sign detailed judgement no later than six months of the date of delivery.
A judge will disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Degree of detachment:
A judge requires a degree of detachment and objectivity in judicial dispensation and he is duty-bound by the oath of office. The judge should practise a degree of aloofness consistent with the dignity of his office.
No business or political ties:
A judge will not be associated in any form of business. He will disclose his assets and liabilities, if asked for, by the Chief Justice. He also should not engage in any political activities whatsoever in the country and abroad.
Keep public concern in mind:
Judges must always remember that they are under public scrutiny and avoid anything that is unbecoming for their office.
No personal relationship with lawyers:
Close association with individual members of the Bar, particularly those who practise in the same court, must be avoided.
No media appearance:
Top court judges will not take part in public debate or publicly express their views on political matters or on matters that are pending at trial. They will not give interview to the media.
Avoid bias, confused decisions:
A judge will remove him or herself from any proceedings if he or she is unable to make an impartial, clear decision on the matter.
Maintain limited relations:
A judge will avoid situations which might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favouritism or partiality in a relationship with individual members of the legal profession who practise regularly in the judge’s court. He will not participate in a case in which any member of the judge’s family represents a litigant or is associated in any manner with the case.
Restrictions on judges’ family members:
A judge will not allow his or her family members to maintain social or other relationships improperly to influence any judicial matter pending in the court.
No private practice:
A judge will not practise law or maintain law chamber while he or she is holding judicial office.
No illegal favours, bribes:
A judge and his or her family members will neither ask for nor accept any gift, bequest, loan or favour in relation to his or her judicial duties.
A judge will sit in and rise from the court in time without fail. Failing to do so will be treated as misconduct.