The Supreme Court bar association Wednesday threw its weight behind NJAC, tearing apart the collegium system for ignoring merit and appointing judges who failed the common man and gave relief only to the “high and mighty”.
The court witnessed spirited exchanges as SCBA president and senior counsel Dushyant Dave stood up to defend the national judicial appointments commission, asking the judges to take a real view of how higher judiciary was being perceived.
“My Lord, I request you... someday wear a burqa and walk in the corridors (of the court) and see how disgraceful judges have made themselves... You will be embarrassed,” Dave said.
It was because of bad judges that the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh and 2002 Gujarat riots were still waiting for justice, he said. “Why film stars and politicians get instant relief from courts and the common man suffers for years?... It is because of bad judges,” Dave told the five-judge justice JS Khehar-headed constitution bench that is hearing petitions challenging the validity of the NJAC act.
The act has paved the way for a six-member panel that replaces the system of judges appointing judges.
“In fact, every court is going an extra mile to protect the high and mighty... a driver gets bail within hours if he happens to be film star... it doesn’t happen for the common man,” Dave said. “It’s a shame on us that we have not delivered justice to cases related to violations of human values and human rights,” the bench responded.
Attacking the 1993 verdict that ushered in the collegium system, Dave said the SC usurped the power of appointment and “then say it is not justiciable. This is what we have seen in last 20 years under the collegium system”. The NJAC was constitutional and should be given a chance as nobody knew how it would function, he said.
Faulting the collegium system for appointing undeserving judges and encouraging nepotism, Dave talked about a high court judge being elevated to the top court as reward for being business partner of a son of a former CJI. He also mentioned the case of a Calcutta high court judge who had objected to the appointment of the sister of an ex-CJI to the court.
“There is no smoke without fire,” Dave said. “Some of the finest judges have been denied elevation (to the SC) for years as somebody in the collegium didn’t like him.”
As Dave continued his attack, the bench said, “You have given us enough ‘lecture’. Why don’t you give suggestions to improve...?”
Dave said he “felt hurt as my Lord characterised my argument as lecture”. The majority of judges were outstanding only a minority was bad, he said. The court said it understood Dave’s anguish but wanted remedy. “You can think over it and tell us,” the court told the senior lawyer, who promised to give his suggestions in writing.