The present system of appointing Supreme Court and High Court judges through collegia consisting of senior judges should be done away with and, instead, a National Judicial Council (NJC) chaired by the Prime Minister could be constituted, according to P.K. Misra, former Chief Justice of the Patna High Court.

In an interview to TheHindu here recently, he said that the collegium system had failed and hence alternative methods such as the NJC, mooted in 1989 by then Union Law Minister Dinesh Goswami, could be adopted. It was proposed that the council could comprise the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, Chief Justice of India and other jurists.

“As far as I remember possibly a private Bill was also introduced in Parliament (for constituting the NJC). But, with the dissolution of that Lok Sabha, the Bill collapsed or lapsed rather. I feel that one can give such a proposal a chance and try to experiment and see what happens because there will be wider consultation (while selecting a person for judgeship),” the former Chief Justice opined.

He said: “There will be less scope for arbitrariness (if selections are made after wider consultations). Political influence will be there as it is there indirectly now. There may be even direct interference if National Judicial Council is formed under the leadership of the Prime Minister. But, I feel that the time has come when an alternative system should be given a try.”

Stating that no system was good or bad by itself, he said it was the men behind the system who either make it successful or otherwise. “Therefore, if the persons in the collegium discharge their duty as if they are trustees of the public trust, then these things possibly will not occur.” Replying to a question on lawyers lobbying with the collegium for being elevated to the Bench, he said: “Whether the lawyers lobby directly or they lobby through their godfathers, I cannot deny that there is no lobbying... According to me, a lawyer submitting his bio-data is possibly more acceptable than lobbying through some godfather or through some influential persons.”

He recalled that in 1988, the then Attorney General K. Parasaran had said that previously judges were being sought for but nowadays judgeship was being fought for. “What he said two decades back is much more relevant now. I mean it has deteriorated to a great extent. Unfortunately, nowadays people value materialistic things more than their self respect… It is a most unfortunate development,” Mr. Misra added.

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