After striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) as unconstitutional in 2015, the five-judge constitution bench of Justices JS Khehar, Jasti Chelameswar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel explored alternatives to make the Supreme Court’s collegium system, which appoints judges to the nation’s constitutional courts, transparent. The court sought suggestions from the public and the response was overwhelming. There are many who have questioned the SC’s decision to ask for suggestions, but what is significant is that the issue of transparency in judicial appointments is finally being debated across the country.
While it is no longer possible for nepotism and favouritism to sneak into judicial appointments, vested interests are still trying their best to promote their own since there are vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts (nearly 40%). They are trying to push the agenda of the old non-transparent appointment process through the collegium system. This should be stopped by the Supreme Court. Vacancies might be affecting the criminal justice system but pendency and vacancies cannot justify non-transparent appointments.
Even when there were fewer number of vacancies, the performance of the judiciary in clearing outstanding and pending cases was not extraordinary. While it is important to ensure that we have a mechanism for speedy disposal of cases, the most important thing is to ensure a transparent appointment mechanism of the higher judiciary. This mechanism must be thoroughly examined and a proper procedure should be first put in place before any appointments are made.
To avoid wrong appointments, the government in consultation with the chief justice of must introduce an all-India judicial service. This will go a long way towards attracting the brightest and the best talent available in the country. This is a five-decade-old demand but it has not been implemented on account of vested interests both in the political and judicial systems. Their intention is to perpetuate nepotism and favouritism in judicial appointments. This goes against objectivity, fairness, sensitivity and professional approach to the judiciary’s working. Several people have asked the Centre and Supreme Court for such a service but it appears that the judiciary is taking advantage of a divided Parliament to push its agenda of perpetuating judicially-sponsored appointments.
Dammu Ramakrishnaiah is former vice-chancellor of Osmania University
The views expressed are personal