Saturday, April 14, 2007

Judges' Tenure: Need for rethinking

Can we find remedy for the ills of our judiciary by changing the tenure of Judges of Higher Judiciary? This article in Deccan Herald here argues that it can make a difference. And I tend to agree with the author. We need to compare the tenure of Chief Justice Chandrachud (the longest tenure a CJI ever had], with that of others to know what contribution a longest serving CJI could make. Alternatively, we should also bring out the extent of damage that a short-tenure CJI could cause to the institution. In the past, we have had CJIs for just 14 days, or 30 days, and there were always controversies surrounding the cases heard and disposed by them, not on merit, but on extraneous considerations. The author, N.Haridas, is unhappy with the seniority rule, because in his view it has led to selection of mediocre persons as Judges. The Emergency aberration notwithstanding - when India witnessed a phase of committed judiciary, having broken the seniority rule, Haridas says the earlier system wherein seniority was not emphasised, is still worth a try. Only recently in our blog, our co-bloggers, Arun Thiruvengadam and Vivek Reddy were discussing the deteriorating quality of judgments of our Superior courts, citing an article written in EPW by A.G.Noorani. Part of the reason, perhaps is that our retiring Judges are in a great hurry to write their judgments of cases heard by them, before they retire, and this deadline pressure leads to compromise with objectivity, balance, and consistency. If the Judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court have permanent tenures without retirement (as in the U.S.), will it not be an answer to many of these ills? A fixed tenure for the CJI is desirable to ensure proper leadership and administrative qualities in a CJI, but simultenously, we need to remove the retirement age-limit for the Judges, to make them truly independent, and make them less dependent on Executive, for post-retirment benefits.
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