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Editorial of the Day (12th Mar): Judges Joining Politics


  • Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay recently resigned as a judge of the Calcutta High Court and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The Chief Minister of West Bengal criticised his judgments post-resignation, questioning their impartiality.

Judicial Conduct and Expectations

Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct (2002)

  • Core Values: Independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence, and diligence.
  • Focus: Eliminate bias in decisions and maintain public trust in the judicial system.
  • Restrictions:
    • Judges cannot make public statements influencing ongoing cases.
    • Recusal is mandatory when impartiality is compromised.
  • Expected Behaviour: Conduct upholds the dignity and strengthens the image of the judiciary.
Previous Instances

  • In 1967, Chief Justice Koka Subba Rao resigned to contest the presidential elections.
  • In 1983, the Supreme Court judge Baharul Islam resigned to get elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Supreme Court Cases

  • C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee (1995): Court emphasised the need for judges’ strong character and integrity.
  • All India Judges’ Association v. Union of India (1991): Court said that high expectations exist for judges to uphold justice.

Opinions on Judges Entering Politics

  • Former Union Minister Arun Jaitley suggested a cooling-off period for judges to prevent post-retirement bias in judgments.

Effort To Ban Judges Acquiring Executive Position

  • K.T. Shah, a Constituent Assembly member, proposed prohibiting judges of constitutional courts from holding executive positions, but this suggestion was not adopted.
  • The idea was rejected because imposing external regulations on judges’ conduct could undermine the principle of judicial independence, leading to the decision against legislating judges’ conduct in constitutional courts.

Legal and Ethical Discussions

  • Judgeship as a Sacrifice: Becoming a judge often means a significant personal sacrifice for lawyers, as it restricts their freedom and limits personal aspirations due to the necessity of maintaining judicial restraint.
    • Despite these sacrifices, judges of constitutional courts enjoy certain powers and privileges not available to others, highlighting a unique aspect of their role.
  • Impeachment Process: The Constitution, through Article 217 and Article 124(4), specifies that impeachment by Parliament is the sole method for removing a judge, a process known to be complex and rarely successful.
  • High Court’s Authority: Article 215 grants High Courts the status of a court of record, with the power to enforce contempt of court, further emphasising the judiciary’s authority.

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Opportunity for Judicial Reform

  • This incident presents an opportunity for the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court to address judicial aberrations and reinforce ethical standards.
  • There’s a call for the Supreme Court to explicitly forbid judges from engaging in politics post-resignation, aligning with the oath of office and global judicial conduct norms.
  • The necessity for judge-made law on this issue is highlighted, given the unlikely action from Parliament on judicial conduct reform.

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