As the Supreme Court prepares to take up on Tuesday the issue of improving the functioning of the opaque collegium system of judicial appointments revived last month, experts unanimously suggested the process must be transparent.
As part of its suggestions to improve the collegium system, the government also tell the apex court that the criteria for selection of judges should be made transparent and the reasons for selecting or rejecting a candidate must be put in public domain.
The government may suggest that the best way to introduce a “more participatory” system would be to have a panel of eminent persons who would tell the collegium their opinion on the candidates shortlisted to help the panel of top five SC judges take an informed decision before making recommendations to the government.
Noting that sitting judges didn’t have enough time to look at probable candidates, former Delhi high court judge RS Sodhi said: “There should be a body to assist them in the process. This body should hunt talent. After filtration by this body of former judges and bar members, the HC collegium and SC collegium should take a call.”
Justice Sodhi sought to emphasise that “the entire process must be absolutely transparent.”
While supporting the idea of transparency in judicial appointments, OP Jindal Global University vice chancellor C Raj Kumar said there should gender diversity in the collegium. “There must be at least a woman judge in the collegiums,” Kumar told HT.
President Pranab Mukherjee had on Saturday called for transparency in the appointment of judges, saying the judiciary must reinvent itself through introspection and self-correction. “The appointment process must conform to the highest standards of probity,” he said while addressing the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Delhi HC. “No one can meddle in the process,” he said.
A five-judge constitution bench had on October 16 declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) unconstitutional and revived the collegium system under which top five judges appoint the judges of the SC and HCs, putting the judiciary on a collision course with Parliament and the government.
But three of the judges had criticised the opacity in the collegium’s functioning and fixed November 3 to consider measure to improve it.
The government initially criticised the SC judgment but later finance minister Arun Jaitley said the verdict would be implemented. The government and bar bodies are likely to tell the SC that the collegium should record reasons for selection or rejection of a candidate and it should be put in public domain, sources said.