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It’s time for the Collegium system to go

11 90 287
18.01.2019

In the inaugural session of the Supreme Court of India (SC), held 69 years ago, we were promised an independent judiciary that would be the third pillar in India’s constitutional framework, counterbalancing the legislature and the executive. In the Constituent Assembly debates that preceded the creation of the SC, Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking on higher judicial appointments, said that the judges selected should be of the “highest integrity” and be persons “who can stand up against the executive government and whoever might come in their way”. I fear that we may have forgotten these important words.

The process for the appointment of judges lies at the heart of an independent judiciary. Over the years, this process has manifested itself in the questionable form of the Collegium of judges, which decides on appointments to both the SC and the high courts. The recent decision of the Collegium to inexplicably replace two high court chief justices selected for elevation has reaffirmed my long-standing concerns about the methods of working of the Collegium.
The Collegium process has once again shown that it is opaque, with its members working as if in a cabal. More problematically, the Collegium is not accountable to any other authority. Its present decision to appoint Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, by retracting and superseding earlier selections of fine judges in their own right, is especially concerning. Justice Maheshwari was earlier rejected by the Collegium in its December 2018 meeting. Justice Khanna has been selected over his three senior colleagues, Justices Pradeep Nandrajog, Gita Mittal and S Ravindra Bhat. My issue is less about the seniority convention than about the lack of transparency.

Admittedly, the seniority convention for higher judicial appointments is not set........

© Indian Express