The Supreme Court on Monday said it is likely to hear on September 12 a petition seeking the formation a “public, transparent body”, neither controlled by the government nor the judiciary, for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts of the country.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur agreed to hear the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, represented by advocates Mathew J. Nedumpara and A.C. Philip, after they made an urgent mentioning highlighting the “nepotism and favouritism” prevalent in the Collegium system of judges appointing judges.
The apex court's agreeability to hear the petition comes at a time when Justice J. Chelameswar, Supreme Court judge and Collegium and lone dissenter of the >October 16, 2015 NJAC judgment , wrote to the Chief Justice his decision to skip Collegium meetings till a transparent mechanism is ushered in.
The lawyers' body has also written an “open letter of appreciation” to Justice Chelameswar about his principled stand against the opacity of the two-decade-old Collegium system.
In a strong critique of the NJAC judgment, the petition sought for a judicial declaration from the Supreme Court that the verdict “killed” the fundamental right of an “ordinary lawyer” to be considered a judge and thus closing the door to reform in judiciary.
The judgment, it contended, has perpetuated the zone of consideration of judgeship to the few powerful and privileged who have either political connections, who are well-heeled or who have their kith and kin in the higher echelons of the judiciary.
Judicial reforms “was killed even before it was allowed to take birth by the judgment in the NJAC case”.
“No mechanism in substitution thereof, which will provide for a just, fair, open and non-discriminatory selection and appointment of Judges from a diverse and wider pool of candidates than the traditional ones, namely, the kith and kin of Judges, their near and dear ones, has been brought into existence and that the proposed Memorandum of Procedure, which seeks to provide for a non-statutory, if not secretive, eligibility criteria and procedure, is violative of Part III of the Constitution,” the petition argued.
It said the judgment has hurt “the concept of democratic legitimacy in the matter of appointment of Judges to the higher judiciary”.
The need for a public body, to be set up by parliamentary legislation, which is neither connected to the government nor the judiciary is necessary "to secure a selection from a diverse and wider pool of candidates, so too a fair and non-discriminatory selection and appointment will bring an end to the patronage and influence of the so-called legal luminaries and, above all, to be seen by the public at large that the judges who decide their affairs and destiny are selected in the fairest possible way".
“A Judicial Appointment Commission which will be independent of both the executive and the judiciary to select Judges for the higher judiciary by inviting applications from all eligible candidates, invite references from all stakeholders, the Bar Associations, the public at large,” the petition said was its requirement.