The Madras High Court Advocates’ Association (MHAA) has urged Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir to return the list of 15 names sent by the Collegium of the Madras High Court for appointment of Judges as “the proposed list of persons recommended for elevation to the high constitutional office falls far short of the standards set out in the various judgments of the Supreme Court.”

The Association on Tuesday passed a resolution to recall the list of names and to “evolve evidence-based assessment process where candidates are selected solely on merit and good character while at the same time ensuring diversity of representation among the candidates without in any manner compromising or diluting merit and good character criteria.”

The MHAA, in its representation to the CJI and the four most senior Supreme Court judges, said “despite the fervent pleas from the Bar for transparency in an issue which impacts both the Bar and the public at large, we learn that a list of candidates has once again been sent under a cloak of great secrecy. The Bar has once again nothing to go by except ‘reliable information’ about the names in the list. The proposed list of persons recommended for elevation to the high constitutional office falls far short of the standards set out in the various judgments of the Supreme Court. It appears that the names have been proposed on extraneous criteria such as caste, religion, office affiliations and political considerations. We at the Bar are deeply distressed, concerned and even alarmed at the partisan manner in which the selection is made.”

At this stage we do not want to make any comments about individual candidates, the MHAA said, and added that “these kind of blind appointments have had a negative impact on the quality of justice and we are experiencing long delay in delivering judgments.”

Listing out the criteria for selection, the Association said the candidate must have “intellectual capacity, personal qualities, and ability to understand and deal fairly, authority and communication skills and efficiency.”

It said, “In other words, there must be materials such as reported and unreported cases the person concerned argued, any academic or journal articles written, confidential testimonials from judges before whom they appeared, testimonials from other respected members of the Bar/citizens who may have personal association or knowledge about the individual concerned and so on. There is no reason why the Collegium cannot adopt a similar process. The Collegium should also have personal interactions with the candidates concerned so that the Chief Justices concerned who have come from outside the State will have an opportunity to personally meet and assess the candidates. This will to some extent make the appointment process rational and accountable and not totally arbitrary and whimsical as it presently is.”

The Association, while urging the CJI to return the present list of names, requested him to select candidates for appointment as judges of the Madras High Court by following a transparent process hereafter.