Top jurists on Sunday expressed surprise over rejection by a panel, comprising the country’s top five judges, of the names of chief justices of Bombay, Gujarat and Uttarakhand high courts for promotion to the Supreme Court.
Former Chief Justices of India – JS Verma and VN Khare – termed the decision of the Supreme Court collegium to declare these judges unsuitable for elevation as “unprecedented.”
Justice Verma said, “From what has appeared in the media, if it is so, then it is unprecedented and I am shocked. Were the same gentlemen not elevated as chief justices by the same collegium procedure barely a couple of years back?”
Justice Verma, who in 1993 had authored the majority judgment, which gave birth to the collegium system for appointment of judges, said that he now favours the creation of an independent commission to appoint judges.
“A letter written by me along with Justice VR Krishna Iyer and Justice MN Venkatachalliah is already with the Prime Minister. We have given detailed reasons on why we feel it is time to do away with the collegium system,” Justice Verma said.
The former CJI said some judges could be more suitable than others for being elevated to the Supreme Court, but “to record that a judge is not suitable to hold the office is something which does not augur well for the judiciary of the country.”
He added that he failed to understand how the collegium determined the “comparative merit” in selecting those judges for the Supreme Court, who spent very little time as chief justices of high courts.
Another former CJI, Justice Khare said, “In my view, the collegium should have avoided providing reasons for not recommending names of judges for elevation to the Supreme Court,” since they are under scrutiny of opinion makers and jurists.