Govt hits out at collegium system for judges

Cites examples of errant judges who did not follow discipline

The Centre on Wednesday hit out at the collegium system of appointment of judges before the Supreme Court by citing examples of errant judges, who did not follow the discipline, and failed to perform or pass judgments and to come to the courtroom on time.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that one person was appointed judge of a High Court, promoted as chief justice of different high courts and then a judge of the Supreme Court whose record for writing judgments did not go beyond three-figure in entire career and another one created dubious distinction of arriving late to the courtroom.

Resuming his arguments to defend the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, he submitted before a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Justice J S Khehar that one could not be sure of how a judge would turn out to be after his or her appointment. He also submitted a sealed envelop containing names of 7-8 “bad appointments” made by the collegium.

Referring to another instance, he said that “havoc” like situation was created when a judge of a particular high court issued a threat for contempt action against chief justice. “In such cases, the judge concerned should have been transferred or the chief justice should have withdrawn all judicial work but it was not done,” he contended.

To his submission, the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel, said, “There are errant and errant people. There is no point in talking about them or sharing details. The Chief Justice of India has acted on such cases.”

Rohatgi, however, contended that there were umpteen examples where great lawyers made out to be bad judges and average lawyers emerged as good judges.

“To say, a body of judges (collegium) alone will decide the appointment is a myth and completely undemocratic,” he said.

He further submitted that the six-member panel of the NJAC has taken care of the SC judgment in Second Judges Case wherein it was held that the primacy of judiciary was to ensure that no appointment shall be made unless approved by a body of judges.
The CJI and two senior most judges in the NJAC can block any appointment of HCs and SC judges under the new legal regime, he said.

The AG said that there was no proper system of evaluation of high court and Supreme Court judges. “Even in case of district judges, you have system of evaluation. In one case, a judge (without naming) who has not disposed of three-figure cases, became chief justice of different high courts and SC judge. This causes a lot of heartburn. Some benchmark, data, guidelines have to be there. There were judges who have no sense of discipline,” he said.

“A contempt notice was sought to be issued against a newspaper for publishing a story about a Supreme Court judge coming late to the courtroom,” he said.
The AG is likely to focus his arguments on importance of two eminent persons and Law Minister in the NJAC in his submission on Thursday.

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