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SC: No Reason to Derail Collegium System, Says ‘Most Transparent Institution’

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SUPREME COURT LAW INSIDER

Akansha Upadhyay

Published on – 04 December 2022 at 22:11 IST

Calling itself the “most transparent institution”, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday said the collegium system should not be derailed on the basis of statements by “some busybody”. Rejecting the adverse comments made against the collegium’s selection mechanism by its former judges, the apex court termed it as a “fashion”.

“Don’t derail the system which is working,” said a bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar while reserving its verdict on a plea seeking information about the 2018 collegium meeting.

While the petitioner’s lawyer Prashant Bhushan argued that the Supreme Court was not transparent by not disclosing any details about the collegium meeting on December 12, 2018, which “decided” to elevate two high court judges to the top court Reportedly taken, the bench was emphatic that the recommendation was not a “decision in writing”.

“Collegium does not function at the wishes of a busybody…it must have been an oral thing. The decision must not have been converted into writing. So many things are discussed in the collegium…We are the most transparent institution,” retorted Justice Shah, who is also currently a member of the five-judge collegium in the apex court.

The bench’s remarks on the collegium system and its transparency follows Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s consistent denunciation of the collegium system, which he has described at various instances in the last one month as “opaque”, “unconstitutional” and the only. There is a system in the world where judges appoint people whom they know.

While Rijiju’s comments were responded to by Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Y Chandrachud by appealing for “constitutional politics” by the executive and judiciary as he spoke at the Constitution Day celebrations on 25 November, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

The bench rejected it. Justice Rijiju’s public stand on the collegium during a hearing on November 28 further underlined that the Center is bound to “follow the law of the land” and “cannot frustrate the entire system” of making judicial appointments.

Meanwhile, Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist and petitioner Anjali Bharadwaj before the court on Friday, cited statements and press reports attributed to former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur, according to which the collegium, despite the decision taken in the meeting The resolution was not uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court.

On December 12, 2018, to elevate the then Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court Pradeep Nandrajog and the then Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice Rajendra Menon as judges of the apex court.

According to reports, Justice Lokur, who retired on December 30, 2018, and reportedly attended the collegium meeting that cleared the names of the two high court chief justices, said he was “disappointed”. That the decision taken by the collegium on December 12, 2018, was “not followed up and carried out.”

However, the bench on Friday took a dig at the comments made by former Supreme Court judges on the Collegium, especially those who were part of the Collegium during their tenure and participated in decision making.

“We do not wish to comment on anything said by the former members. Nowadays, it has become a fashion for former members to comment on judgments when they were part of the collegium,” remarked the bench, refusing to heed Bhushan’s emphasis on Justice Lokur’s statements.

Bhardwaj approached the SC against the apex court’s administration’s refusal to inform him about the agenda of the December 2018 collegium meeting and other relevant information. His appeals before the Central Information Commission and the Delhi High Court also failed to elicit any positive response.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court earlier this year upheld the decision of the Public Information Officer of the Scheduled Castes Administration, saying that in the absence of a formal resolution being adopted and signed by the members of the SC Collegium for the said meeting, the officer Right Hain took the position that there was no material liable to be disclosed.

Further, it said that “unverified and unverified” press reports cannot be taken cognizance of. According to former CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s autobiography ‘Justice for the Judges’, the collegium meeting on December 12, 2018 had given favorable opinion on the names of two high court chief justices for elevation to the Supreme Court.

The matter was allegedly leaked after the matter was leaked. The issue was put on hold. After the retirement of Justice Lokur, the new collegium met in January 2019, but the two names recommended earlier did not find support, according to the book.