In an unprecedented move, a senior sitting judge of the Supreme Court has pointed out lack of transparency in collegium system and its decision-making process, particularly in the appointment and transfer of judges.
Justice J Chelameswar, the fifth senior-most judge of the Apex Court who is also one among the five members of the collegium system headed by Chief Justice of India T.S Thakur, has written a three-page letter to Justice Thakur expressing his unwillingness to attend meetings of the collegium.
The judge also walked out of the collegium meeting which was scheduled to be held on Thursday where the other remaining four judges were present.
On August 3, the Centre had sent the revised memorandum of procedure for appointment of judges, and the collegium meeting was to discuss the issues on which there are differences between the Centre and the judiciary.
“Due to the absence of Justice Chelameshwar the collegium meeting was deferred,” the source confirmed.
In December last year, Justice Chelameswar was the lone dissenting judge when a five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court that had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act.
While the other four judges had favoured the collegium system, Justice Chelameswar argued against the total elimination of the government from the selection process, as it was against democratic principles.
“Transparency is a vital factor in constitutional governance. Transparency is an aspect of rationality. The need for transparency is more in the case of the appointment process. Proceedings of the collegium were absolutely opaque and inaccessible both to public and history, barring occasional leaks,” Justice Chelameswar wrote in his verdict.
The NJAC Act had provided for a six-member panel, comprising the CJI, two Supreme Court judges, the Union law minister and two eminent persons, to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
After striking down the NJAC Act, the Supreme Court advised the Union government to draft a memorandum of procedure for the appointment of judges but the collegium has since been repeatedly turning down suggestions made by the government on the method to be adopted.
One of these suggestions was that the government reserves the right to reject names recommended by the collegium if they are not in ‘national interests.’
Recently, the government has made a claim on the basis of the dissenting order of Justice Chelameswar on transparency and sent the revised draft to CJI for reconsideration.
Chelameswar’s judgment had referred to international practices and quotes from the history to buttress his argument that the healthy balance among various organs is the prerequisite of the a healthy and thriving democracy.
By – Dhriti Sharma