‘Nepotism, casteism’: Judge pans judicial appointments in letter to PM Modi
Allahabad High Court judge Rang Nath Pandey has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging “nepotism, favouritism and casteism” in the appointment of judges to higher courts. He called the present process of judges’ appointment “unfortunate”.
“In the last 34 years of my service as a judicial officer, I have seen people with no or poor knowledge of the law being appointed as judges,” he wrote in Hindi, days before his retirement on Thursday.
The letter dated July 1 points out the flaws in the collegium system of appointment of judges. “The appointment of judges takes place behind closed doors and over cups of tea… and favouritism is the only relevant factor for appointments.”
He regretted the opaqueness in the appointment of judges. “The whole process is secret and the names of judges are only disclosed after their appointments… who gets appointed on what basis is kept under wraps and this process of appointments is very unfortunate,’’ wrote Justice Pandey, who also congratulated Modi on his return to power.
He criticised the Supreme Court’s 2015 judgment rejecting the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment, which sought to give politicians and civil society a say in the appointment of judges to the highest courts. “When your government brought in the NJAC Act, there was hope that there will be transparency in the appointment of judges.
However, the Supreme Court struck down the Act as it would have affected it powers of making the appointments.”
He referred to the 2018 press conference of four Supreme Court judges against then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra expressing concerns about his conduct in the assignment of cases. He said, “The event muddied the judiciary’s image.”
It is perhaps for the first time that a sitting high court judge has written to a Prime Minister criticising the process of the judges’ appointment.
Supreme Court lawyer Viplav Sharma said the judges have usually exercised restraint and have not participated or publicly criticised their own.
“They have been known to speak through their judgments or keep their peace on issues they do not deal with. This letter is extraordinary.”