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Collegium system working well, why change it: New CJI
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 6
Justice P Sathasivam, who will take over as the Chief Justice of India later this month, says he will take the opinion of all Supreme Court judges on the move to replace the present Collegium system and convey it to the government, provided the Law Minister sought the SC’s views before introducing the relevant Bill in Parliament.

He, however, said the present system was working well as judges to the high courts and the SC were being appointed after having their credentials verified by the government machinery at the Centre and respective states, including the intelligence apparatus.

Further, the Collegium system was the result of two SC judgments, both delivered by nine-Judge Benches, and as such any change was possible only through a review or a Constitutional amendment.

In a free-wheeling interview to The Tribune, Justice Sathasivam made observations on a wide range of issues that have great significance to litigants involved in more than 30 million pending cases. He outlined the steps he would take to expedite disposal of cases and expressed his views on death penalty, long court holidays, frivolous adjournments and the government move to prevent the judges from making observations while hearing cases.

“The government need not be afraid of observations” by judges as these were intended to elicit response from the arguing counsel so that the court was in a better position to decide the cases. “Judges can’t remain silent spectators without making comments while hearing cases,” he said.

Further, the observations were generally in the nature of oral interactions which were in the interest of dispensing justice, he explained. The functioning of the court could not be regulated by the executive or the legislature by enacting a law. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that judges were not expected to make observations which were irrelevant to the case on hand.

Asked about the need for restraining khap panchayats from issuing diktats against couples for going against the wishes of the society, he said the SC and other courts had time and again deprecated such acts. Also, involving para-legal persons to create awareness among the people on what was right and what was wrong would go a long way in preventing such instances. On the relevance of death sentence in the light of several countries having abolished the legal provision, he said this was necessary in the rarest of rare cases to deal with terrorism and other barbaric crimes.

On being informed about the public perception against courts having long holidays, he said all the courts — SC, HCs and subordinate judiciary — were strictly following the statutory provisions for minimum number of working days. During the holidays, the judges were either busy writing judgments or visiting high courts to interact with judges and lawyers and participate in functions relating to the judiciary.

The CJI-designate is also not in sync with move to decriminalise cheque-bounce cases. Doing this would delay the disposal of cases by several years, while under the present provision these would have to be adjudicated within six months of filing the chargesheet. Further, the SC has made several clarifications on the provisions of the existing law which facilitate expeditious settlement, he explains.

Pointing out the need for quick disposal of commercial litigations in order to attract investments and improve economic development, he said he would allocate such cases in the SC to judges who had expertise in the matter, instead of spreading these across several benches.

Justice Sathasivam is also not in favour of enacting a law for restricting adjournments. Judges grant adjournments only if both the sides agreed and after ensuring that these are not on frivolous grounds, he reasons.

Key points on judges’ observations

Judges can’t remain silent spectators without making comments while hearing cases... The government need not be afraid.

On death sentence

It is necessary in the rarest of rare cases to deal with terrorism and other barbaric crimes.

On quick disposal of cases

Commercial litigations would be allocated to judges who have expertise in the matter, instead of spreading these across several benches.





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