Apex court decries attempt to defame judiciary

Denies reports of Karnataka HC judge's elevation

Apex court decries attempt to defame judiciary

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on attempts to defame the judiciary and slammed repeated campaigns against the collegium system of appointment of judges.

The apex court’s expression of disapproval coincided with the government introducing the judicial appointment commission bill in Parliament.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice R M Lodha spoke against lowering the image of judiciary in the eyes of general public, pointing out that many judges have been appointed since the introduction of collegium system. “There is a campaign going on to defame judiciary, there are attempts to bring disrepute to judiciary. You are doing great damage to the important organ,” the bench said.

“For God’s sake, don’t shake confidence of the people. Everyone says that the collegium system has failed. It is not so. I am from the first batch of judges appointed by the collegium and Nariman (Rohinton F) would probably be the last. If collegium has failed, then all the products have failed,” a visibly-agitated Justice Lodha said.

The court’s outburst came even as the NDA government introduced a Constitution amendment bill to scrap the collegium system by replacing it with a National Judicial Appointment Commission. The CJI would head the Commission under the proposed Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014 . The other members would include two senior most judges of the SC, Law Minister and two eminent persons.

Notably, former SC judge and Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has made a series of disclosures accusing former CJIs of “improper compromises” and inaction with regard to corrupt HC judges, triggering demands to review the existing system of judges’ appointment.

The opportunity for the court to give vent to its views was provided by a PIL filed by advocate Ram Sankar, contending that the elevation of Karnataka HC judge, Justice K L Manjunath to Punjab and Haryana HC as chief justice, was contrary to law.

As advocate R V Kameshwaran Ayyar, appearing for the petitioner, raised the issue of Justice Manjunath, relying upon media reports, and sought transparency in the appointment process of judges, the bench shot back, “Who told you that Justice Manjunath has been elevated as chief justice of Punjab and Haryana HC. The entire matter is based on erroneous premise. See how misleading campaign is going on.”

“Repeated attempts are being made on something which is factually incorrect but that does not mean that a chorus is started,” the bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman said.

There were media reports about the government returning the file with the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Manjunath as Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court collegium, headed by the chief justice of India and comprising four other top judges insisting on their choice.

Referring to the news reports, the petitioner contended that if the reports were wrong, it was the responsibility of the judiciary to clear the doubts. He also said that all the discussions in the collegium must be posted on its website as the common people had a right to know what was going on.

“We are concerned about the gravity of the situation. Transfer does not mean elevation. I am the Chief Justice, I head the collegium. We have not recommended Justice Manjunath as chief justice of Punjab and Haryana HC,” the bench said.

The court dismissed the petition saying that it was based on incorrect premise.

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