Monday, January 21, 2008

Tainted image: Judiciary needs huge reforms, says bar report

A recent study reflects on the face of the judiciary, that it is no different from the other organs of the state.
The report states that the judiciary is also an institution awaiting an overhaul to keep it above public doubts.
The report outlined the reforms needed in the judiciary as the public have no option other than moving the court for justice even when they do not have faith in the judiciary because of corruption, irregularities and delayed justice.
The study, commissioned by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), states that the judges have been appointed based on nepotism, favouritism and political ideology. To address these shortcomings, the report suggested introducing new policies to save the judiciary’s image.
“There is an urgent need to adopt an examination system for the appointment of the district and appellate court judges and to conduct parliamentary hearing while appointing the ChiefJustice and Justices of the apex court,” states the report.
It also suggested that such parliamentary hearing be conducted by an experts’ committee rather than lawmakers who may not have the expertise to grill judges.
A committee comprising senior advocate Shree Hari Aryal, advocates Kamal Narayan Das, Prakash Osti and Bharat Raj Upreti prepared the report. The bar body is preparing to send the copies of the report to the leadership of the government and the judiciary.
Though the judiciary is not popular with the public, nobody has analysed or studied to uncover the reality. Also, its own activities have been promoting doubts. The court users have also been highlighting the judiciary as a corrupt institution. This image has been deteriorating due to the actions of the politicians, the press and lawyers.
The committee also suggested punishing those involved in corruption, irregularities and any kind of misconduct which has been tarnishing the judiciary’s image.
“The common people will start respecting the judiciary if the suggestions of the report are implemented,” Aryal . “Only a small percentage of people have access to justice and we have analysed the reasons and shown the ways to address them,” he added.
“If the Chief Justice works courageously and honestly, people under him will definitely be afraid of him and not indulge in corruption and irregularities,” Aryal added. “If the CJ is honest and courageous, half the problem will be taken care of,” Aryal said citing the report.
“We also think that if judges are not updated with the recent trends, they cannot grant justice; so, we recommended that the judges be appointed only after they pass fresh exams,” he added.
Aryal also said if the judges are found to be involved in corruption, they should be given double sentences. Considering this fact, the report suggested that the judges’ conduct be monitored regularly.
In order to address the discrimination between the apex court judges and the lower courts judges and the court staffers, the report suggested that they should be given retirement at 60 years of age. Currently, apex court judges retire at 65, appellate court judges at 63 and staffers at 58. “The judges have been enjoying the taxpayers’ money so they should be accountable to the public,” it added. It correctly observed that “judges should be accountable and responsible while providing justice and they should not transfer the responsibility to court staffers if they are involved in wrongdoings”.
Stating there are differences in salaries and facilities enjoyed by the judges and the court staffers, the report suggested that the court staffers’ facilities be increased. It also added that the government appoint the law minister considering his legal background, as he is the ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council and the Judicial Council, which recommends the appointment of the Chief Justice and judges.The committee also suggested adopting reforms in quasi-judicial bodies as they have not been fully abiding by law at present and common people have been suffering their decisions.
It suggested the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Nepal Law Commission has to be more proactive in drafting and amending Acts.
Stating the judiciary wasn’t providing information effectively, the report asked the SC to set up an information desk to disseminate information. The 200-page report suggested that the press report judicial issues in a proper manner and be self-sensitive while reporting judges’ personal characters. -Ananta Raj Luitel/himalayatimes

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