Solution lies mostly in adhering to code in judges’ appointment

A CODE of conduct for judges, framed by the Supreme Judicial Council in May 2000, is already there, although it has, as the law minister said, no enforcement as ‘it stipulates no punishment for violation of the code’, according to a report that New Age published on Friday. In the wake of public criticism of a retired judge about the chief justice and the appearance of a retired judge to defend a war crimes convict, the minister, therefore, wants a fresh code of conduct framed. A three-member committee, headed by the chief justice, was, however, instituted in May this year to update and modify the code of conduct for Supreme Court judges. If the existing code of conduct could be updated and modified for the better, it would be better for all quarters, including the people sitting on the judiciary. But such efforts — framing a fresh code of conduct for judges or updating and modifying it — are highly unlikely to bring about any good until and unless a code of conduct is put in place, or a code of conduct, if there is any, is updated and modified, and adhered to in the appointment of judges by the authorities concerned. The root cause of such a situation as the one at hand is widely believed to have resulted  from, mostly, considerations of partisan interests in the appointment of judges and chief justices. When judges and chief justices are appointed considering the interests of the party in power, it is obvious that a proper display of ethics and morality cannot be expected of the judges especially when it comes to cases related to partisan politics. As judges are appointed to serve on the bench, and not to serve partisan interests, disregard for the accountability, morality and ethics of high standards in such appointments, ideally, makes judges branch of politics and the norms and values of the judiciary would to be breached. In addition to high moral standards and ethics having been looked into at the time of judge’s appointment, the other issues of utmost importance that should be considered are good academic results and empirical experiences to reckon with. Because, judges, at times, make law, having been able to change law by reinterpreting it, creatively applying it and even by nullifying it. Until and unless the people to be made judges and chief justices possess all these qualities, it would be difficult for them to dispense justice and they would at times represent the party, rather than the law. And the judiciary, the people sitting on the judiciary and citizens having recourse to the judiciary would continue to suffer. Under the circumstances, the government is well advised to adhere to the criteria of morality and ethics as well as academic results and empirical experiences of people when they are appointed judges or chief justices. This is the most important thing to do to save the judiciary from embarrassment. Unless this is done, a mere formulation of a fresh code of conduct or update to and modification of the existing code for judges would hardly be able to make any difference.

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