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Necessary disclosure: On Supreme Court Collegium resolutions quoting IB, RAW reports

Law Minister’s objection to collegium revealing intelligence inputs is devoid of any merit

January 26, 2023 12:20 am | Updated 12:10 pm IST

There is nothing wrong, or that warrants grave concern, as claimed by Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju, in the Supreme Court Collegium disclosing portions of reports by intelligence agencies on prospective candidates for judicial appointments. If anything, the Collegium’s disclosure of the nature of the objections raised by the government has only helped make the discussion transparent. It is difficult to agree with the assumption that reports by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) on names recommended or considered by the Collegium are inherently sensitive in nature. RAW is cited in the Collegium’s disclosure as raising the issue of the suitability of an advocate for appointment because his partner is a foreign national. The IB reports appear to have highlighted social media posts by two other lawyers to raise doubts about their impartiality. While reiterating the earlier recommendations, the Collegium had to address the government’s objections on a point-by-point basis. There was nothing improper about the disclosure of the details, which were incidental to the purpose of rebutting the claims. In the three recent instances, there is no startling revelation in the intelligence reports concerning lawyers whose names have been recommended for appointment in different High Courts; nor is there any sensitive information that could compromise the identity of officers or their undercover work.

It is not clear on what basis Mr. Rijiju has claimed that intelligence officers will “think twice” in future if their reports are made public, when only a summation of their reports is out in the public domain. In fact, it is questionable whether the government should quote intelligence reports in its communications with the Collegium. Objections based on political views or social media posts could have been raised by the government on its own, without citing any agency by name. It is part of the appointment process that names are vetted by intelligence agencies to look for possible criminal antecedents or misdemeanours, and raising such issues need not be specifically attributed to any agency. It is also quite rich that the government, which has been assailing the collegium system of appointments for its opaqueness, should be worried about excessive disclosure by the Collegium. It cannot be forgotten that the government is also contributing to the opaqueness by its silence and inaction regarding some recommendations, and demonstrating urgency in approving other names. It raises the question of suitability of some candidates based on some posts critical of government policy, but ignores the fact that lawyers with strong political affiliation to the ruling party also make it to the Bench without any impediment.

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