Delhi HC asks Centre to evolve new policy

New Delhi: The Union government was asked today by the Delhi High Court to finalise within three months a uniform policy on legal opinions and pieces of advice given by former Supreme Court judges to litigants.

The court, meanwhile, also asked its registry not to accept and list petitions for hearing if they contain opinions of retired apex court judges. A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw directed the Central government to evolve a uniform policy in three months.

The court`s order came after the counsel for the Centre informed it that the government has come out with a scheme on the issue of legal opinions given by former apex court judges and to litigants and the same would be finalised shortly.

With its direction to the Centre, the court disposed of the PIL, filed by NGO `Common Cause` through advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking a ban on the practice of former apex court`s judges giving their legal opinions to the litigants.

The court, however, declined the petitioner`s plea to pass an order stopping judges from giving legal advice. Former apex court judges were violating the Constitution "in letter and spirit" by tendering legal opinion, which was being produced in courts and now even before the investigative agencies and their legal views are being used by the litigants to influence findings (of probe agency) and the judgments, Bhushan said.

The civil society has also sought prohibition of high courts judges taking up private practice. It said even the apex court judges should not be permitted to preside over tribunals and commissions or other quasi-judicial bodies.

Pointing out that arbitration involves high-stake commercial cases, the plea by Common Cause had sought an order that retired judges must not be permitted to take part in such proceedings as long as they continue to preside over the tribunals.

Last year, the court had asked the Union government to take a stand on the feasibility of retired judges giving advice to litigants or doing arbitration work. Bhushan had earlier referred to some cases going on in the Supreme Court where retired judges of the apex court have given legal opinion to private parties. "Courts shouldn`t be overawed by retired judges. This needs to be stopped," the lawyer had said.