Faced with the historic admission from his own court that the collegium system of judicial appointments was flawed, Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu on Tuesday broke his silence on the issue and told The Hindu that the judiciary was open to “consider” guidelines that may be framed by a Constitution Bench to improve the system.
“All of us, the government and the judiciary, work for the common man. We will wait for November 3 to see what the Constitution Bench decides. We will see what kind of suggestions comes from different quarters.”
Asked whether the highest judiciary has received any negative vibes from the government after the NJAC judgment, Chief Justice Dattu said: “There is nothing for them to feel offended about.”
“The motives of both the government and the judiciary are good. They serve the people; we, too, serve the common man. Except certain voices from here and there, I have not come across a single word written against the judgment. We know the government will take it in the right spirit,” he said.
Asked how he envisions the road ahead with the revival of the collegium system, Chief Justice Dattu said the “road ahead is crystal clear”.
“With over 40 per cent judicial vacancies due to the pendency of the NJAC case, the workload has increased considerably for judges. There is also an increase in filings. But now with things clear after the judgment, we will go ahead. The process will start soon and more judges will come. We will take care of pendency.”
Asked whether the government’s recent approval of the collegium’s recommendation to extend the term of 24 additional High Court judges was a signal that both could work together and leave the NJAC judgment behind, the CJI said there was “no confrontation to start with.”
“There is no confrontation. These are only statements made in some quarters. We, I mean both the government and the judiciary, know what we are doing. We are doing the best for the people, and neither of us will take it in any other way.”
Earlier in the day, Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda spoke to The Hindu about the alarming state of judicial vacancies. He said both the judiciary and the government have now swung into action on knowing that the terms of the 24 judges were to expire on October 24. “If nothing had been done, they [the 24 judges] would have gone home. We cannot afford to do that as there are already so many vacancies,” he said.