The procedure of collegium appointing judges to higher courts may undergo transformation with the government toying with the idea of changing the system in the wake of allegations of lack of transparency and delays.
Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily says the government is “thinking” of making changes in the appointment procedures as the present practice (collegium) does not “fully reflect” the two Supreme Court judgements, which led to creation of the existing system.
India may be among the few countries in the world where judges appoint themselves, a practice that started after 1993 replacing the system of government picking the judges for higher judiciary.
Mr. Moily told PTI in an interview that the changes could be made either through judicial action or legislative method.
“The 1993 Supreme Court judgement and the 1998 Supreme Court judgement led to the present Memorandum of Procedure (which governs the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts). But the system does not fully reflect the two judgements in their letter and spirit,” Mr. Moily said.
He underlined that at the moment, the government is “thinking” and “no decision has been taken”.
Refusing to give details of the government plan, the Minister said there were two options to go about it. “Either we amend the Constitution or make a fresh law, or the present Memorandum of Procedure is reviewed by a bigger bench of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Mr. Moily said the draft of revised Memorandum of Procedure was referred to the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan for his opinion. But the Minister did not say whether any response was received.
After the two Supreme Court judgements, the Memorandum of Procedure was adopted with the consent of the government and the judiciary.
The changes in the procedure to appoint judges are being contemplated in view of allegations of lack of transparency in the present system.
Asked whether the government was considering doing away with the collegium system for appointment of judges, he said, “Don’t draw any conclusions.”
Under the Collegium system, the top five Supreme Court judges recommend names of judges to the government for their transfer or elevation.
A Vision Statement of the Law Ministry issued on October 24 last year had said the present Collegium system of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary was coming in the way of ending shortage of judges and suggested involvement of executive and legislature to hunt for the best talent.
“The increased number of members of collegium has made the consultation process cumbersome and hence there is delay in the selection and elevation of judges,” the statement presented by Mr. Moily to Justice Balakrishnan had said.
The document expressed hope that the executive and legislature will take initiative in recommending the best possible talent for selection to the judiciary.