New Delhi, October 17
All five judges of the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench that restored the collegium yesterday have acknowledged in their judgments that the system of appointing higher judiciary judges was facing severe criticism.
But only Justices J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph found merit in the serious allegations, while the other three — Justices JS Khehar (who heads the Bench), MB Lokur and AK Goel — maintained that there was not much substance in these remarks and if at all there was some the Executive was equally responsible. All of them agreed to consider suggestions for improving the functioning of the 22-year-old collegium by slating November 3 for hearing arguments on this aspect.
Justice Kurian was the most vocal against the collegium system sought to be replaced with the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) through the NJAC Act, which was struck down by the 4-1 majority verdict, the dissenting judge being Justice Chelameswar.
“All told, all was and is not well... collegium system lacks transparency, accountability and objectivity,” he observed. He went on to say that “the trust deficit had affected the credibility of the collegium” as deserving persons were ignored wholly for subjective reasons and certain appointments were purposely delayed.
Justice Kurian said some allegations were about the blatant violation of the guidelines resulting in unmerited, if not bad, appointments, and the dictatorial attitude of the collegium that had seriously affected the “self-respect and dignity, if not independence, of judges.”
However, he went with the majority verdict against NJAC and said collegium could be improved. Justice Chelameswar noted that Collegium had no accountability as its “records are absolutely beyond the reach of any person, including the judges of this court who are not lucky enough to become the Chief Justice of India.” Such a state of affairs neither enhanced the credibility of the institution nor did any good for the people, he said. All this showed that “a comprehensive reform of the system is overdue,” he explained while upholding the validity of NJAC. He said the majority verdict was unfortunate.
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