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CJI bats for collegium system, tells executive to avoid ‘grandstanding’ | India News

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In a riposte to law and justice minister Kiren Rijiju’s scathing criticism of the “opaque” collegium system, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on Wednesday said the executive must show “constitutional statesmanship and avoid public grandstanding” on the issue even as he batted for a strong collegium system to ensure judicial independence and fairness in selection while conceding that the process needed more judicious transparency.
“No constitutional institution or model is perfect. We need to strengthen the collegium system by ironing out the creases and by being responsive to criticism. Dealing with such issues requires constitutional statesmanship and not public grandstanding,” the CJI told TOI.
The collegium systemcame into existence — through two constitution bench judgments in 1993 and 1998 — to uphold the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers, he said. “Appointment of judges through the collegium system is intended to ensure fairness and secure the rule of law. The system ensures independence of the judiciary by ensuring that recommendations for appointments are free of external influence,” CJI Chandrachud said.
Last week, Rijiju had termed the collegium system non-transparent and alleged that it decides names on the basis of the understanding of a particular judge. “A consultee judge will recommend only those whom he knows…. The fittest of the candidates should be elevated as judges, not the person whom the consultee judge knows. . . . Nowhere else in the world exists a system in which judges appoint judges. . . . The politics of us politicians is nothing (compared) to what goes on in the judiciary.
It is not visible, but intense politics goes on there because they are part of the selection process,” he had said while expressing his angst over the SC’s 2015 decision quashing the National Judicial Appointment Commission legislation.
But the CJI said, “The collegium system is premised on consultation and recommendations are preceded by executive deliberations. The members of the collegium and the judges of the Supreme Court who are consulted bring their close knowledge of the functioning of judiciary to the decision-making process. ”
“The collegium system ensures minimum interference from the executive. The executive and judiciary are bound by the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges which has been drafted after consultation with both the executive and the judiciary. Collegium recommends the names of candidates who have demonstrable integrity, honesty and professionalism,” the CJI added.
On several instances of the executive sitting over the collegium recommendations and not appointing the recommended persons as judges, the CJI said, “The system would reach a deadlock if the executive does not act on the recommendations of the collegium. The executive may send back recommendations with valid reasons…. The collegium on assessing the reasons would decide if it wants to reiterate or alter its recommendations. When the executive does not act on certain recommendations, it stalls the process of appointment. ”However, the 50th CJI was all for more transparency without damaging the reputation of persons being considered for appointment as judges of constitutional courts. “I support the need to increase transparency. But transparency must be enhanced without destroying the confidentiality of the deliberations. There is a public interest in preserving the objectivity of the appointments’ process. The disclosure has to be proportionate to the need to preserve privacy of those who are considered for appointment. ”
“When appointments are made from the HCs to the SC, the judges and Chief Justices continue to function as holders of judicial office. Their legitimacy cannot be eroded (in the name of transparency leading to disclosure of deliberations in the collegium). Our solutions should not prevent talented individuals from accepting the offer,” he said.

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