NEW DELHI (TIP): The Supreme Court of India on November 5 decided to seek the views of the general public, academicians and lawyers across the country on how to reform the ‘opaque’ judges-selecting-judges collegium system, which it had revived after quashing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
Fathoming strong undercurrents in the court room with unsung advocates stealing a march over the luminaries who till now held centrestage in arguing against the NJAC, a five-judge bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said it would be better to seek suggestions from all concerned citizens.
“The issue is so seminally important to the judiciary that we cannot limit the suggestions only to lawyers of this court,” the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel, said.
The apex court had wrested the constitutional power to select judges from the executive through two judgments in 1993 and 1998. In its 1998 judgment, the SC had evolved the collegium system without inviting views from the public. This will be the first occasion when the SC is involving the general public in its affairs, especially in a critically important issue like selection of judges.
Bar Council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra turned the tide in favour of adjourning the case to get response from as many lawyers as possible and from all high courts. Many advocates said the real stakeholders of judiciary were the public and not a coterie of senior lawyers, who alone were being heard by the court.
The bench, which had earlier wanted to complete the hearing on Thursday itself on the ground that the collegium’s work had been stalled awaiting reforms, decided to go public to receive suggestions.
“Bar Council of India is a very important stakeholder. It has office-bearers in all high court bar associations and it wants to consult as many lawyers as possible before making suggestions to the court. It will be a good idea to allow them to do the consultation process and formulate suggestions. It is a very important matter,” the bench said.
It appreciated attorney general Mukul Rohatgi volunteering to upload the broad parameters of reforms – transparency, eligibility criteria for persons to be considered for appointment as a judge, mechanism to handle complaints against persons in the zone of consideration and a permanent secretariat for the collegium – on the website of the ministry of law and justice.