Supreme Court Collegium’s quiet transparency is driving a change

Collegium sets up methods to objectively assess the quality of judgments of prospective candidates; seniority, merit, diversity and inclusion identified as the three-fold criteria for appointments

Updated - July 17, 2023 11:12 am IST

Published - July 16, 2023 08:12 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court Collegium under Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has quietly and transparently streamlined the appointment process of judges to the constitutional courts while adding a deft mix of merit and seniority in the judicial ranks through a selection procedure which involves “meaningful discussion on and assessment of candidates’ judicial acumen”.

The once constant tide of barbs from the government about the “opacity” of the Collegium system has died off with the change of guard at the top in the Law Ministry. Recommendations made by the Collegium for judicial appointment are now notified within days by the government.

Also Read | Collegium recommends Telangana, Kerala Chief Justices for Supreme Court

Since early this year, the Collegium’s resolutions have embraced transparency. They have publicly laid bare the requirements for candidates in the zone of consideration for appointments to the top court and the High Courts.

Quality of judgments

Of primary concern for the Collegium is the quality of judgments of the candidates. For this, their judgments are circulated among the members of the Collegium, well in advance. The Centre for Research & Planning of the Supreme Court also prepares a compilation of “relevant background material to assist the Collegium”.

There is also a Judgment Evaluation Committee which goes through the judicial work of the candidates with a fine-tooth comb. The judgments are graded, with the very best receiving an “outstanding” grade.

Also Read | Supreme Court collegium now has a majority of future CJIs as per seniority norm

This procedure of circulating the judgments of prospective candidates and making an objective assessment of their relative merit was introduced for the first time at a Collegium meeting held on September 26 last year. Justice Dipankar Dutta’s name was the first to be cleared for Supreme Court appointment by the Collegium in this manner.

Three criteria

While proposing Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and S. Venkatanarayana Bhatti for Supreme Court appointments on July 5, the Collegium listed out the three basic criteria which guide its selection process to the top court.

Also Read | Supreme Court Collegium proposes permanent judges for five High Courts

“While recommending appointments to the Supreme Court the Collegium has taken into consideration the following aspects: The seniority of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges in their respective parent High Courts as well as overall seniority of the High Court Judges; The merit, performance and integrity of the judges under consideration; The need to ensure diversity and inclusion in the Supreme Court,” the July 5 resolution said.

The Collegium further explained that “diversity and inclusion” referred to the “representation of High Courts, which are not represented or are inadequately represented, in the Supreme Court; appointment of persons from marginalised and backward segments of society; gender diversity; and representation of minorities”.

Recent appointments

The same criteria were followed by the Collegium recently while proposing Chief Justices to the High Courts of Kerala, Orissa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Telangana and Gujarat.

The Collegium made it clear that its selection of Chief Justices to these seven High Courts was purely based on the objective criteria in Paragraph 3 of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) relating to appointment of Chief Justices of High Courts. “A fair representation shall be given to various High Courts for selection of Chief Justices. For purposes of such selection, inter-se seniority of puisne Judges will be reckoned on the basis of their seniority in their own High Court. The consideration for appointment of Chief Justices shall be based on the criterion of seniority subject to merit and integrity,” the MoP provided.

Also Read | Supreme Court Collegium proposes new Chief Justices to seven High Courts

The Collegium’s proposal to appoint Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Sunita Agarwal, as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat was a step towards the goal of gender diversity in the High Courts. “She would be the only woman Chief Justice of a High Court as presently there is no woman among the Chief Justices of the High Courts,” the Collegium noted.

The objectivity of the Collegium was also apparent in its decision not to bow to the request made by three High Court judges — Justices Guarang Kanth, Dinesh Kumar Singh and Manoj Bajaj — against their out-of-State transfers. All three were told that their transfers were proposed to ensure the “better administration of justice”. The government too backed the Collegium by notifying the transfer of the three judges within days.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.