Preserving Judiciary Independence: Lawyers’ Body Seeks Cooling Off Period for Judges

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A lawyers’ body, the Bombay Lawyers Association, has filed a plea with the Supreme Court, seeking a two-year cooling off period for judges of the apex court and high courts before accepting post-retirement political appointments. The association argues that such appointments adversely affect public perception about the independence of the judiciary.

The plea filed by the Bombay Lawyers Association highlights the recent appointment of former Supreme Court judge Justice S Abdul Nazeer as the governor of Andhra Pradesh as a catalyst for their case. The association contends that the acceptance of political appointments by judges without any cooling off period has a detrimental impact on the public’s perception of the judiciary’s independence.

Several instances are cited in the plea, including former Chief Justice P Sathasivam’s appointment as the Governor of Kerala, ex-Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha, and Justice Abdul Nazeer’s appointment as the Governor of Andhra Pradesh. These appointments raise concerns about the potential compromise of judicial independence.

The lawyers’ body seeks a constitutional requirement for a cooling off period of two years after retirement before judges can accept any political appointment. Additionally, they request the imposition of a condition at the time of appointment, mandating the cooling off period for judges of higher courts before accepting a political office. The plea also urges the retiring judges to refrain from accepting political appointments during the pendency of the case.

The association emphasizes that an independent judiciary is crucial for upholding the rule of law, a cornerstone of democracy. The public’s perception of judicial independence is crucial, and the current trend of judges accepting political appointments immediately after retirement undermines this perception.

Furthermore, the plea draws attention to the recommendation made by the apex court-appointed panel, led by former Chief Justice RM Lodha, regarding a cooling off period for officials in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after serving a fixed term. This serves as a precedent for recognizing the importance of a cooling off period to maintain impartiality and independence in various domains.

The plea filed by the Bombay Lawyers Association seeks to safeguard the independence of the judiciary by introducing a two-year cooling off period for judges before accepting post-retirement political appointments. Such a requirement would help address concerns about the potential erosion of public confidence in the judiciary’s autonomy and impartiality.

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