Defends collegium system of appointment of judges

Family members of convicts whose mercy petitions have been dismissed by the President must be informed when the convicts would be executed, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said on Sunday.

“As a matter of principle, the family members should be informed as to when the thing [execution] happens,” he said at a press conference after the all-India Chief Justices conference on April 5 and 6 and the meeting of the Chief Ministers and the CJs of 24 High Courts. Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar was present.

Asked whether Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru’s family members ought to have been informed of his execution, the CJI said, “They should have been informed.”

On delay in disposal of mercy petitions by the President, the Law Minister said: “Let us not talk about the past. There has to be expeditious disposal of mercy pleas, and recently the President has disposed of a large number of such pleas. A system is being evolved for expeditious disposal keeping in mind the judicial decisions.” He, however, declined to comment on the Afzal Guru issue. To a question, the CJI said: “generally, courts should not interfere in policy decisions unless they are contrary to constitutional guarantees or against the law.”

He defended the collegium system of appointment of judges. “Different agencies are involved in the consultation process and a lot of deliberations take place within the members of the collegium and outside before a person is chosen as a judge. Without knowing the working of the system, one should not comment on it.”

On the judicial standards and accountability Bill providing for penalising judges making oral observations, he said: “The Bill is pending consideration in the Rajya Sabha. I would not like to comment on it.” However, he agreed that when the point was not connected with the dispute, there should not be unnecessary oral observations.

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