I came to submit my suggestions before Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice, honouring the intentions of Supreme Court aimed at improving the collegium system. It has asked the government to seek suggestions from public and Bar Council of India. Interestingly, as I came to flip through news items in the aftermath of sending my suggestions, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction that my views were well-within the ambit of concerns of other top-notch legal experts grappling with issue of elevating standard of collegium. The Supreme Court eager to ensure transparency feels that a permanent secretariat for collegium would prove handy. It’s also all prepared to improve the complain mechanism against the candidates besides ensuring a perfect methodology to determine candidate’s eligibility.
It’s certain that on this sensitive matter views of legal experts are bound to be divided. Fali S Nariman pointed out the flaws in present collegium system in quite strong terms. He seemed to be highly frustrated the way members of colleguim circle turned a deaf ear to concerns of right voices!! “The Dinakaran episode told us that there was lack of receptivity in the collegium. If a responsible member of the bar wants to tell the collegium about a person being considered for the post of a judge, why should the collegium members not hear him out.” ( Fali S Nariman, The Times of India )
Justice Chelameswar who has left everybody stunned with his strong condemnation of present days colleguim system sounds harsh yet very genuine in regard to reforms in this direction. “To assume or assert that judiciary alone is concerned with the preservation of liberties and does that job well, is an assumption that is dogmatic, bereft of evidentiary basis and historically disproved… To wholly eliminate the executive from the process of selection would be inconsistent with the foundational premise that government in a democracy is by chosen representatives of the people. The records ( information shared among collegium members ) are absolutely beyond the reach of any person including the judges of this court who are not lucky enough to become CJI. Such a state of affairs does not either enhance the credibility of the institution or good for the people of this country” ( Justice J Chelameswar, The Times of India )
However, former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, is adamant about highest level of confidentiality regarding deliberations among collegium members! ” The moment information gets leaked about a person being considered by the collegium at the Supreme Court or the high court level, immediately, vested interests swing into action. They launch a motivated campaign to deride and defame the person in the zone of consideration. The person who is awaiting a final word about his appointment as judge from the collegium suffers greatly in silence. Collegium meetings have to be conducted in absolute secrecy. Names of persons being considered by the collegium for the post of judges should never be leaked out. It unnecessarily puts the candidate’s reputation in peril.” ( Gopal Subramaniam, The Times of India)
The opinion seems to be strongly divided. The ball now lies in the Supreme Court. We all eagerly await its final words in this regard. My suggestions are pretty simplistic in tone since I am quite aware of the fact that legal bodies would have sent enough cumbersome ideas!! For instance, I had a look at the suggestions sent by Save Indian Family Foundation ((SIFF) fighting for the welfare of men in India. Few of them appeared to be well-carved suggestions but certain ideas were outrageous and flabbergasting. Overall, this institution fighting for the cause of men did a good job.
My suggestions are as follows:
1. There should be thorough scrutiny of the credentials of the candidate. It should be ensured at the very first stage that names recommended represent the best minds.
2. Though it’s a good idea that there should be fair representation of women and SC/ST quota, it should be ensured that it in no way compromises with the merit. The point is that merit should be the criteria instead of adhering to notion of fair representation in rigorous way.
3. If possible let us citizens be made aware of criteria/qualification on which the final selection got made. There should be maximum transparency, and minimum confidentiality. It’s the notion of confidentiality that has created maximum damage in the field of judiciary. The point is that if at any stage it’s found that there is something fishy about final selection, there should be a mechanism to prevent the entry of wrong person in league with doubtful credentials.
4. It should also be ensured that whistle blowers who dare to expose wrong names should not be targeted.
5. It’s a redundant practice in field of law that only heirs of big lawyers or lawyers enjoying patronage of judges get recommended and thereafter selected! This practice should stop. Let those names be recommend who truly represent the legal values.
6. This may sound an abstraction but I feel that let those lawyers be recommended who have genuine inclination towards rule of law and natural justice instead of making way for lawyers who have simply dry understanding of rules and regulations.
( The Writer Of This Post Is Advocate Associated With Allahabad High Court, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. )