SC collegium breaks tradition, interacts with lawyers cleared to be HC judges
The Supreme Court collegium created a history of sorts by conducting an informal interview of the persons who were shortlisted by the respective high court collegiums.india Updated: Mar 30, 2018 16:38 IST
Chief Justice Dipak Misra-led Supreme Court collegium has informally met at least 10 advocates and district judges who have been cleared by it for high court judgeship, judges privy to the first of its kind initiative have said.
The development has been hailed as a step towards improving the selection process of senior judges, a contentious matter between the government and judiciary. Even within the higher judiciary there have been differences over the way judges are picked.
“The idea was to get an overview of the person, assess his personality and also see if the person is conversant in the language,” a judge in know of the interaction said on Thursday. Proceedings in the Supreme Court are conducted in English.
The prospective judges – five from Kolkata and five from Madhya Pradesh – were called to the Supreme Court on March 26 where the country’s top three judges talked to them.
Justice J Chelameshwar and justice Ranjan Gogi are the other two members of the collegium responsible for picking high court judges.
The collegium assesses the judicial work done by the candidate – verdicts in case of judges and cases argued for the lawyers – and also consider the views of chief ministers as forwarded by governors along with Intelligence Bureau’s reports about them. The age, income and observations made by the department of justice are also looked into.
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta lauded the move, saying “Although a new procedure but according to me it’s a good and a welcome move.” The interaction would give the collegium an opportunity to know future high court judges, he said.
The development comes at a time when the memorandum of procedure (MOP) for the appointment of judges is still not in place.
On December 16, 2015, a Constitution bench led by justice JS Khehar asked the government to finalise a new MOP in consultation with the CJI to replace the current one and listed a number of suggestions to improve appointment procedure.
The judgment stressed on the importance of revisiting the selection procedure for the senior judiciary.
The bench, had on October 16 of that year, struck down as “unconstitutional” the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act that was passed by Parliament to end the two-decade-old practice of judges appointing judges.
The MoP has since been stuck because of the lack of agreement between the Centre and top judges on various provisions.
The new appointments will take the number of Calcutta high court judges to 35 against the sanctioned strength of 72. In the Madhya Pradesh high court the number of judges will rise to 40 but still 13 judges short.
The appointments have to be cleared by the government, which can seek changes but if the collegium rejects them, the Centre will have give its nod.