43% of legislators have criminal antecedents; country needs course correction: SCBA prez
New Delhi: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Vikas Singh on Monday said 43 per cent of lawmakers have criminal antecedents and the country needs a course correction by enacting a law to prevent such persons from getting elected.
Singh, addressing a function at the Supreme Court on the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, also urged the Collegium to elevate people from the lower judiciary to the Supreme Court “only on the basis of the disposals they do rather than on the seniority”.
He said these were the two areas with regard to the justice delivery — quality of legislators and appointment of judges — where serious reforms and serious introspection were needed.
“Today, after 75 years if we see 43 per cent of our legislators having criminal antecedents, I think we need a course correction. I think we need to amend (law) because no individual political party can take the initiative of ensuring that people with criminal antecedents are not elected. Because if a party does not give a ticket to somebody who has been winning, the other party will,” he said.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana, who was the chief guest at the function, hoisted the national flag at the Supreme Court premises.
The SCBA president also urged Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who was present on the occasion, to “seriously think on this line”.
“If there’s a law, if there’s a level playing field, then definitely we will be able to have a better Parliament, better law making, and more lucid discussion on law making. Justice delivery will ultimately benefit if lawmaking gets better,” he added.
Regarding the judges’ appointment, he claimed that Collegium members, especially at the high courts, are more interested in elevating judges whom they know rather than trying to find the best names.
Singh said his efforts as the SCBA president to get SC lawyers elevated to the bench has faced “a complete stumbling block” because “nobody is interested in good names”.
“That is where the fallacy lies. Once in a while we have a person from the SC (bar) getting elevated but that is only when one of the Collegium members here tries to push their candidature, and that is not a healthy thing at all…,” Singh said.
He said the power to appoint judges comes with “a high amount of responsibility to find the best names”, adding that if the quality of the judges goes down, justice delivery will suffer.
“Even when you elevate people from the lower judiciary, it should be only on the basis of the disposals they do rather than on the seniority,” he added.
He added the right way forward was to do a course correction.
“The best way to do course correction according to me is think of our freedom fighters and think of how they would have been visualising this country; whether they’d be happy with the things that are going on or whether there would be some repent in their mind that probably what course they had set for this country is not happening. That is the best way to introspect,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the “legal fraternity” to help the institution develop the “digital dispensation of justice”.
“We are happy to note that it has started, though at a very very low, initial level. Most judges are using digital technology. It is time that within a very short period of time we may enter into digital dispensation of justice,” he said.
He further reminded the contribution of the legal fraternity in the country’s independence and said “the freedom would have been incomplete if the fundamental rights of citizens of a free country were not protected.”
“Even after independence, the real movement of protecting fundamental rights of the citizens continued by the legal community… We should ensure that the independence we gained is meaningful to the last man on the street,” he said.