New Delhi: A five-judge constitution bench, hearing a petition challenging the validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, today observed that the collegium system worked well, though it might have needed improvement.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission is to replace the 22-year-old collegium system under which judges appoint judges. The Centre has assured the court that no appointments will be made under the new system till the court decides it is valid.
Talking about the collegium system, Justice JS Khekhar, who was heading the bench, observed, “One can say it needed improvement, but one can’t say there is no transparency.”
The observations were made after senior Lawyer Ram Jethmalani, opposing the new system of appointing Judges, said the only grievance against the collegium system was that it was not transparent.
“We only select the best lawyer who can be appointed as a judge,” Justice Khekhar said. “His morality, integrity and behaviour in society are all decided by the chief minister, the Governor, the Union Law Minister, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the PMO. Tell us one instance where our recommendation has proved wrong.”
Reacting to Mr Jethmalani’s suggestion that the system should have included the procedure of advertising for judges’ posts, Justice Khekhar said, “Even without advertisements, we receive thousands of letters… If we advertise, it will create more problems.”
The court directed the Centre to submit statistics which can throw some light on the complaints against the collegium system: In how many cases the Centre raised objections after the Supreme Court and the High Court collegium cleared names for judges’ appointment; in how many cases the appointments were reiterated despite the Centre’s objections; and in how many cases those persons were not appointed.
Mr Jethmalani said certain actions by the government were suppressing freedom of speech and expression. The government, he said, can even appoint two rogues as “eminent persons” in the National Judicial Appointments Commission to elbow the Chief Justice of India and the new system.
The arguments will continue on Friday.