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Appointment of judges to be biggest challenge, says new CJI

india Updated: Dec 03, 2015 00:19 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Chief Justice of India

Justice TS Thakur will take over as India’s 43rd Chief Justice of India.(PTI Photo)

Picking judges for the Supreme Court and high courts would be the biggest challenge for him as the Chief Justice of India, Justice TS Thakur said on Wednesday, a day before he takes over as the country’s top judge.

Finding meritorious and worthy candidates for the four positions in the Supreme Court and more than 400 in the high courts was another concern identified by Justice Thakur.

“It is not an easy task. The high courts need to start the process in earnest. Those in the decision-making process must answer to their conscience and no other considerations,” said Justice Thakur, who would be sworn in as the as the country’s 43rd CJI on Thursday morning. He will have a 13-month tenure.

The top court would be closely watched when it gets down to appointing judges, as it recently shot down a law that would have ended 22-year-old opaque collegium system of judges appointing judges.

The enormity of the task can be gauged from the fact that outgoing CJI HL Dattu, who headed the collegium for almost 14 months, could appoint only one judge, as the judiciary and government slugged it out over the national judicial appointments commission act eventually struck down by a constitution bench.

“Through the judgment, the law of the land has been declared. But, the fallout is that it has made the job of superior courts in the country more difficult,” he said.

The judiciary has come under increased scrutiny with a rise in cases of corruption involving judges as well as charges of nepotism. Lack of meritorious judges was one of the arguments put out in favour of NJAC.

The judiciary had never faced criticism the way it did on the issue of appointments, Justice Thakur said. “Now we will have to live up to the expectations of the public. We have to ensure the procedure is more transparent and merit is not ignored,” he said at a farewell function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association for justice Dattu.

NJAC would have given the government a say in appointments to the higher judiciary. India is the only country where judges appoint judges through a judicially-devised mechanism not envisaged under the Constitution.

Though it threw out the NJAC act, the top court admitted the system of appointing judges needed to be changed and even called for suggestions from public. A constitution bench is expected to come up with measures to make judicial appointments transparent.