The UPA government on Monday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1993 verdict that gave primacy to the judiciary over the executive in appointment of judges in the apex court and high courts.
During hearing of Suraj India Trust's petition seeking a review of the 1993 ruling that led to the collegium system under which a panel of top SC judges select judges for the higher judiciary, Attorney General GE Vahanvati supported the petition.
Maintaining there were certain apparent inconsistencies in the 1993 SC Advocate-on-Record Association case judgment, Vahanvati said the appointment process needed to be reconsidered.
The government’s open advocacy for a change in the judges' appointment system has come at a time when the judiciary has been actively questioning it on issues of corruption and transparency in executive decision-making process.
Vahanvati told the court that the government was in the process of bringing in a bill for necessary changes in the appointment procedure of judges but its enactment would take a long time and, therefore, the SC could refer the matter to a constitution bench for reconsidering it, he added.
A bench headed by justice Deepak Verma sent the matter to Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia to consider if it could be referred to a larger bench.
Since the earlier verdicts were by nine-judge benches, the new bench, if at all it comes about, will have to be an 11-judge bench. Earlier, appearing as amicus curiae (court's friend), senior counsel AK Ganguly supported Suraj India Trust's view that the judiciary should not have absolute power in appointment of SC and HC judges.
Law minister M Veerappa Moily had in June 2010 said: “Everybody agrees that the collegium system has failed and it needed to be changed.”
His predecessor HR Bhardwaj had described the system as a “give and take” between the government and the judiciary often leading to delay in judicial appointments.
Under Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the Constitution, a judge of SC/HC have to be appointed by the President after “consultation” with CJI. Govt was not bound by CJI’s recommendation.
In 1993, the SC introduced collegium system taking over primacy in appointments to higher judiciary.
A 9-judge Constitution Bench in 1998 ruled “consultation” must be effective and CJI’s opinion shall have primacy.
In 2008, Law Commission favoured restoration of pre-1993 position.
Now, govt wants SC to review its 1993 and 1998 verdicts.