Centre points at less productive ex-judge to criticise collegium

Centre points at less productive ex-judge to criticise collegium

A former judge, who delivered very few judgments in his tenure, was cited by the Centre as an example in the Supreme Court on Friday to demonstrate serious lacunae in the collegium system of judicial appointments.

An Apex Court bench, however, wondered why the government appointed him the NHRC chairperson post retirement if he was not deserving but at the same time stated that the judge was elevated to give representation to different sections of the society.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, while contending that the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act would bring transparency and accountability, submitted before a five-judge Constitution bench that the particular judge reserved hundreds of judgments and delivered only a few.

“We must have a flexible criteria for appointment. You can’t say we can’t keep it in public domain. There has been an example where hundreds of judgments were reserved (by a judge) but not delivered,” Rohatgi contended, defending the NJAC Act, brought in to recommend names for appointment of High Court and SC judges.

“It is the collegium which brought laurels to him (the judge),” the AG said. In his arguments before the court, the AG had earlier also brought up similar cases of appointment of judges, who did not perform up to the standard and played truant in attending courts.

Presiding over the bench, Justice J S Khehar, however, pointed out that the particular judge was appointed following the principle of “due representation” to different sections of the society.

“You talked about giving due representations to different sections. One case can't make the rule, but see after his retirement what you (government) did, you appointed him in the National Human Rights Commission,” the bench said.

The bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel, said it was not the number but quality of judgments which was important. The judges dealing with Constitutional matters can’t be compared with those hearing cases under the Rent Control Act, the court added.

In his submission, the AG contended that the Constitution as well as the NJAC Act would provide sufficient guidelines for appointing judges by including factors like number of years of practice at the Bar, number and nature of cases argued, academic publications in reputed journals, etc. 

Additionally, objective criteria such as returns of income and lack of criminal antecedents should also serve as determinative factors to determine a candidate’s integrity, he added.

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