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Why can’t there be more transparency in judicial appointments, asks Verma

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Justice J.S. Verma
Justice J.S. Verma

J. Venkatesan

“Chief Justice of India should not be excluded and should be treated on a par with other judges”

NEW DELHI: The former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, on Tuesday called for more transparency in judicial appointments to ensure judicial accountability and independence.

He said: “What we read in the print media [about judicial appointments] and what we hear about judiciary is very disturbing. Why should people not know about what we are doing in the judiciary? Why can’t there be more transparency?”

Speaking after the release of a book Courting Destiny, a Memoir written by the former Union Law Minister and senior advocate, Shanthi Bhushan, Justice Verma said: “The entire correspondence on judicial appointments should be made public at least after the appointments are made so that people would know what type of judges they are.”

The memoirs provide some of the most interesting and seminal cases that laid the foundations of India’s constitutional history. They include the Keshav Singh case of 1964 which led to the first standoff between the executive and the judiciary; Indira Gandhi’s election case which unseated her as Prime Minister, leading to the imposition of Emergency; the habeas corpus case in which the Supreme Court declared that during an Emergency there was no right to life or liberty and no recourse against illegal detention. Together, they offer a broad perspective of the evolution of Indian law and the interpretation of the Constitution.

Justice Verma said: “People must know why a certain person was recommended and why certain persons were not recommended. Please publish all my correspondence relating to appointment of judges when I was the High Court Chief Justice and Chief Justice of India.”

Calling for more openness, he said: “Internal infirmities about judiciary and judges are far more dangerous than external infirmities. Administrative functions of judges should be as open as the judicial functions of judges.”

Disclosing of assets

On the Centre’s assertion before the Central Information Commission that details of assets of judges could not be disclosed, Justice Verma said: “When candidates contesting elections disclose their assets, why not judges disclose their assets? When we don’t furnish such information how can we give directions to the executive to be transparent in their actions?”

On the move to exclude the Chief Justice of India from the ambit of the National Judicial Council to deal with judicial appointments and to deal with errant judges, Justice Verma said the Chief Justice of India should not be excluded and he should be treated on a par with other judges.

The former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, who released the book and handed over the first copy to Justice Verma, gave a glimpse of the contributions made by Mr. Bhushan in every branch of law.

Senior advocate T.R. Andhyarujina described Mr. Bhushan as one who stood for his conviction. He said Mr. Bhushan was a role model for the younger generation of lawyers.

In his reply, Mr. Bhushan said: “The procedures in the court are much too complex and need to be totally simplified, which alone would ensure speedy justice.”


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