The veil of secrecy over the procedure for appointment of judges and the absence of clearly defined parameters raises serious questions over the impartiality of the selection process, says a parliamentary panel.
“The judiciary is perhaps the only institution in the country where the entire process for the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges is kept completely secret, which raises serious questions on the impartiality of the selection procedure,” said Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice chairman E.M.S. Natchiappan.
In its latest report, the committee says: "The closed system prevailing now is not getting meritorious persons called to the Bench. Transparency, inclusiveness and merit should be the way of appointing judges.”
The report further widens the already growing gulf between Parliament and Judiciary, which do not see eye-to-eye on crucial issues. Even as demands for changing the judges’ appointments procedure grow in Parliament, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan has made it clear that such an idea is not welcome.
Asked recently about the need for a change in the procedure of judges’ appointment, the CJI said: “We are bound by the Supreme Court judgement in the judges appointment case and can’t say anything about this”.
However, expressing displeasure at the present system, the parliamentary committee has strongly asked for a change: “The prevailing procedure for judges' appointment is against the democratic principles…and the Law Ministry should come up with an alternative by involving the Executive, instead of allowing the judiciary alone to choose judges,” says the report.
Natchiappan even questioned the discretion of a high-powered judges committee (collegium) to recommend the names for appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts. “It is strange that a collegium secretly chooses names of those to be appointed as judges. The country has a right to know about the credentials, contribution to the legal field, academic brilliance and public conduct of a person being appointed to such an important constitutional position,” he said.
Natchiappan said the committee has recommended that the aspirants' names, merit and selection process be made public from the beginning.
“The entire process should be made transparent by putting up all the details on the Supreme Court and High Courts websites. The report, at various levels in the Department of Justice should also be on its website till the final stage,” the parliamentary committee said.