Joining the debate on the issue of appointment of judges, former law minister and leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said there should be a clearly defined “objective criterion” to decide who becomes a judge.
Jaitley is the first major political leader to raise the issue of judges’ appointments since the controversy erupted on the proposed promotion of Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran to the Supreme Court.
In an interaction with senior editors of Hindustan Times, Jaitley, who completes 32 years as a practising lawyer next month, said: “The real issue is not who shall appoint judges, but who is appointed as judge. The focus of this question should change.”
“For an individual to be eligible to be considered for the position of a judge, some performance criteria should be clearly laid down,” he said.
Elaborating on the eligibility conditions which could be considered, Jaitley listed academic record, duration of practice, number of cases argued, won or lost, and whether any of the cases contested led to landmark judgments.
Jaitley disagreed with Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily’s proposal for taking the services of retired judges to clear the backlog of cases in district and high courts to cut down the mounting number of cases.
“I can say from my experience in running the fast track courts during my tenure as a law minister that a retired person who has no stakes in the system is not able to deliver,” he said.
Jaitley favoured the creation of a National Judicial Commission for the appointment of judges in place of the present committee of top judges (collegium). “Its composition can be discussed and debated, but it would be a better system.”
He disagreed with the idea of creation of an ombudsman above the collegium to listen to complaints against Supreme Court and high court judges. “How can there be somebody above the Chief Justice of India? I don’t favour the idea of somebody above the top judges.”