Justice FMI Kalifullah — a sitting judge of the Supreme Court — suggested the constitution of a committee of eminent jurists to assist the collegium to make the process of judicial appointments transparent.
Even high courts must have their own committee of senior lawyers with 25 years of experience before sending a final list of candidates to the collegium for appointment as judges, he said.
Justice Kalifullah sent this suggestion to the department of justice (DOJ) after a constitution bench threw open the contentious debate to the public and sought its opinion to improve the decades-old collegium system under which the top five SC judges refer names to the government for appointment of judges. The government can return any name only once. If the collegium reiterates its decision, the government is bound by it.
Headed by Justice JS Khehar, the bench had on November 19 reserved its verdict on how to improve the current appointment system after hearing additional solicitor general Pinky Anand and senior advocate Arvind Dattar, who compiled the 1,450-odd suggestions that were received.
Due to retire in July 2016, Justice Kalifullah said the process to recommend names of lawyers for judgeship should be time-bound and preferably end within three months. The collegium must prepare the panel after consulting all the sitting judges; the same should be double the required vacancies. According to him, the panel should be sent to the jurists’ committee for a feedback.
“Thereafter, the said committee after holding necessary deliberations and required enquiries submit their suggestions to the collegiums in the form of a report. A time limit should be set for the committee to complete the exercise and submit its report,” stated Justice Kalifullah who himself headed the Jammu and Kashmir HC collegium when he was the chief justice there.