In a fillip to the Centre’s efforts to justify the National Judicial Appointments Commission, a sitting judge of the Madras High Court has lashed out at the collegium system for its “autocratic” style of functioning.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, Justice C.S. Karnan said the judiciary functioned in an “undemocratic” way because the collegium wielded absolute power and acted “on its own views or whims and fancies to say the least”. The manner of the collegium’s functioning “disturbed” both his mind and judicial work.
He said the letter was prompted by a report in The Hindu on the hearings before a five-judge Constitution Bench on the constitutionality of the NJAC, which replaces the two-decade-old collegium system.
The judge said the Centre had done the right thing by forming the NJAC to maintain judicial independence.
Justice Karnan referred to the report quoting Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi’s submission in the NJAC hearing about a High Court judge threatening contempt of court action against his own Chief Justice. Without naming the judge, Mr. Rohatgi referred to this as an instance of the lack of decorum and discipline within the judiciary.
“Referring to the current news publication, inference is drawn on my issuing a contempt of court while addressing My Lord, the Chief Justice of Madras High Court. The fact of the matter is that I did so only to protect the dignity and solemnity of the said court,” Justice Karnan said.