Even as it expressed its obligation to “improve” the judicial system as well as the judge appointment process, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to redraft – in consultation with the Chief Justice of India – the memorandum of procedure (MoP) to be followed by the collegiums for appointing judges to the higher judiciary.
The constitution bench, headed by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) will take a decision based on the unanimous view of other collegium members.
After striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act as unconstitutional, the SC had sought suggestions from Centre as well as the public on how to improve the selection process. While it did not give any direction on how to amend the MoP, the bench said it must reflect transparency in the appointment of judges, eligibility criteria for candidates and procedure for dealing with complaints against them.
Besides this, it also suggested that the memorandum provide for a secretariat to assist the collegiums, and an appropriate procedure be put in place to record the discussions – including the dissenting opinion of collegium members. It, however, added a rider mandating confidentiality in the appointments made.
“The MoP may provide for any other matter considered appropriate for ensuring transparency and accountability, including interaction with recommendee(s) by the collegiums of the SC, without sacrificing the confidentiality of the appointment process,” it said.
On October 16, the SC had revived the collegium system of appointing judges, and quashed the law as well as the constitutional amendment notified by the Centre. The NJAC was meant to bring in transparency, and give the executive a say in the judges’ appointment.