In a historic move to ensure transparency in judicial appointments, the Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, has resolved to post on the court's website its recommendations on judicial appointments, transfers and elevations for public consumption.
The information posted online will also “indicate” reasons for the recommendation or rejection of a name for judicial appointment, transfer and elevation to High Courts and the Supreme Court.
As a start, the Supreme Court has posted online detailed reasons for its October 3, 2017 recommendations for judicial appointments to the Madras High Court and the Kerala High Court.
Details are now available online under the tag “Collegium Resolutions”
The Supreme Court has also posted on its website the minutes of the Collegium meeting, which led to its decision to go ahead with transparency.
The note, titled ‘Transparency in Collegium system’, is signed by all the five members of the Collegium - Chief Justice Misra, Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
“The decisions henceforth taken by the Collegium indicating the reasons shall be put on the website of the Supreme Court, when the recommendation(s) is/are sent to the Government of India, with regard to the cases relating to initial elevation to the High Court Bench, confirmation as permanent judge(s) of the High Court, elevation to the post of Chief Justice of High Court, transfer of High Court Chief Justices / Judges and elevation to the Supreme Court, because on each occasion the material which is considered by the Collegium is different,” the note said.
It said the “resolution is passed to ensure transparency and yet maintain confidentiality in the Collegium system.”
About three decades after it came into existence, this paradigm shift within the Collegium, critcised for its opaque mode of functioning while recommending judicial appointments, came after the recent public furore over the resignation of Karnataka High Court judge Justice Jayant Patel shortly after his transfer to the Allahabad High Court.
Senior lawyers, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Gujarat High Court Bar Association made stinging criticism of the closed-door decisions of the Collegium.
The mode of functioning of the Collegium had seen criticism, for the first time, from within the Collegium itself in the form of Justice Chelameswar.
In his dissenting judgment in the NJAC case, he lashed out at the secrecy and lack of transparency in how judges to the highest constitutional courts are appointed. He even refuses to participate in Collegium meetings until there was some record made of what transpired in them.
The strife within sustained through the tenure of two Chief Justices, Justices T.S. Thakur and J.S. Khehar. Now, Chief Justice Misra has spearheaded the change from within the Collegium.
Sources said that Chief Justice Misra’s proposal to upload the Collegium recommendations indicating reasons had to face strong objections from within the judicial community itself.
One of the objections include that posting such information online would cause judicial candidates, including senior advocates, sitting judges and judicial officers, acute embarrassment and loss of face in case of rejection of their names by the Collegium.