As Parliament debates a bill aimed at scrapping the two-decade-old collegium system under which judges appoint judges, jurists cautioned the government against compromising the independence of the judiciary.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Constitution amendment bill on Monday that seeks to do away with the collegium system of judicial appointments. He also introduced another bill setting up a six-member judicial appointments commission headed by the Chief Justice of India, which will replace the collegium. This bill lays down the procedure for the appointment and transfer of judges.
CJI RM Lodha came out strongly in defence of the collegium system of appointments before the government tabled the bills to overhaul the way senior judges are picked in the country. The CJI expressed anguish over a “sustained campaign” in the media against the judiciary and the collegium system.
“I personally feel that the collegium system has completely failed and it must be replaced. The bill to replace the collegium is fine. But the veto given to the (law) minister is not in the best interest of the institution,” said senior advocate Dushyant Dave.
However, he also pointed out that there was no transparency in the procedure prescribed for appointment of judges in the judicial appointments commission bill.
Former Chief Justice of Kerala high court Justice JL Gupta defended the collegium system. “The government is the single largest litigant in the country, so how can they have anything to do with the selection of the people who will deal with their cases?” he asked.