Collegium to go ahead with appointment of judges: SC

Collegium to go ahead with appointment of judges: SC 

Turning down Centre’s plea that the task for reforming collegium system should be left for the government, the Supreme Court on Thursday went ahead with the proceeding to explore ways to make the system more transparent and accountable and concluded the hearing.
Collegium to go ahead with appointment of judges: SC
The bench concluded the proceedings
noting down various suggestions given
by lawyers on reforming “opaque” collegium system.

A five judge constitution bench of Justices J S Khehar, J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel clarified that the now revived collegium system can go ahead with the appointment process for judges in higher judiciary which has been in limbo for almost one year after National Judicial Appointment Commission was brought in force and vacancies in High Courts shot up to 40 percent.

The bench is likely to pass order suggesting measures to reform the system after the Centre refused to place draft Memorandum of Procedure(MoP) to be followed by collegium for appointment of judges incorporating the suggestions given by people from different walks of life on reforming the system.

A day after the apex court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to draft MoP and place before it within 15 days, he told the bench it is exclusively a executive function done by government in consultation with Chief Justice of India and it cannot be subjected to “judicial vetting”.”

“Memorandum is an executive document. There is no reason for court to see it what is there in MoP. Leave it for the government to frame it in consultation with CJI,” he said.

“Suggestions are already there. The Court can also give its suggestion and the job of the court comes to an end. The government would work out on MoP. It is unnecessary burden being taken by the court. It is not possible that the draft prepared by government in consultation with CJI and approved by Prime Minister be vetted by court,” he said.

The AG said that role of CJI would finish if MoP is decided by court and pleaded that the bench should refrain from venturing into the area.

The bench, however, said that there are gaps in the present MoP due to which judiciary is facing problems and there is no transparency in appointment of judges. It said those gaps should be filled up by framing a new Memorandum.

The bench then went ahead and concluded the proceedings noting down various suggestions given by lawyers on reforming “opaque” collegium system.

The constitution bench had taken the unprecedented step of inviting views of general public for improvement of the collegium system which has been widely criticized for being non-transparent. The SC has taken up the task to improve the collegium system after striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission, terming it unconstitutional.

Around 3,500 people including sitting as well as retired Judges sending their opinion to the government. Many of them advocated written test followed by interview for selecting judges.

The apex court had wrested from the executive the constitutional power to select judges through two judgments in 1993 and 1998. In its 1998 judgment, the SC had evolved the collegium system without inviting views from the public. This is the first occasion when the SC has involved the general public in its affairs, especially in the critically important issue of selection of judges.

-Amit Anand Choudhary,TNN | Nov 19, 2015