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Opinion DC Comment 21 Feb 2020 Collegium needs tran ...

Collegium needs transparency

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Feb 21, 2020, 1:41 am IST
Updated Feb 21, 2020, 1:41 am IST
The sad part is that this has not delivered. The collegium’s recommendations are more often questioned than not.
There has been demand for transparency in the way the collegium system works. The government, which is answerable to the legislature and to the people, has opened itself through the RTI Act, and forced transparency on itself.
 There has been demand for transparency in the way the collegium system works. The government, which is answerable to the legislature and to the people, has opened itself through the RTI Act, and forced transparency on itself.

The Constitution’s framers dreaded the idea of vesting the power of appointing judges in the higher judiciary to judges; Dr B.R. Ambdekar called it a “dangerous proposition”. However, the Supreme Court has re-interpreted the meaning of the constitutional mandate to “consult the Chief Justice of India” while making appointments, and taken over the burden with the collegium system, which finds no mention in the Constitution. It even struck down a Constitution amendment which tried to restore the executive’s say in such appointments. The aim was to insulate the judiciary from the temptations of politicking.

The sad part is that this has not delivered. The collegium’s recommendations are more often questioned than not. The transfer of the Madras high court chief justice to Meghalaya last year kicked up a storm, but the collegium gave no reason why a judge who presided over a chartered high court was shifted to a tiny one. The latest recommendation, to transfer a Delhi high court judge to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, has been called a “rarest of rare case”, whatever that means, by the Delhi High Court Bar Association. “The majesty of our revered institution is at stake,” it said.

 

There has been demand for transparency in the way the collegium system works. The government, which is answerable to the legislature and to the people, has opened itself through the RTI Act, and forced transparency on itself. Governments have more secrets to keep; but the judiciary should have none. It must be the most transparent institution, but opacity has come to be a hallmark of it, as former SC judge said. That is not the great legacy the Indian judiciary should be leaving for itself.

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