New Delhi: To ensure transparency in judicial appointments, the Supreme Court collegium has decided to disclose its rationale for recommending candidates to the government.
This would include reasons for names recommended or rejected by the collegium, comprising the five senior most judges of the apex court, to the government for its consideration.
Until now, the collegium’s decisions on transfers, elevation, appointments and so on have been taken without any disclosure to the public, a practice that was criticised by members of the legal fraternity for being opaque and arbitrary.
Disclosure of recommendations made by the collegium would include those for appointments to initial elevation to the high court, confirmation as permanent judge of a high court, elevation to the list of chief justice of a high court, transfer of high court chief justices/judges and elevation to the Supreme Court.
“The resolution is passed to ensure transparency and yet maintain confidentiality in the collegium system”, according to a resolution posted on the Supreme Court website which was signed by the current collegium comprising of chief justice of India Dipak Misra, and justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
The move comes after the collegium faced scrutiny over the resignation of former judge of Karnataka high court, Jayant Patel, who was set to be transferred to the Allahabad high court by the collegium rather than being elevated as chief justice of the same court.
Patel was 10 months short of becoming the chief justice of the Karnataka high court when he was transferred to Allahabad high court in a unanimous decision by the collegium. As a result, he would lose the chance of becoming the chief justice as he would be third in the seniority list after the transfer.
Before being transferred to the Karnataka high court in 2016, he served as the acting chief justice of the Gujarat high court in 2015.
A challenge to the workings of the collegium is also pending in the form of a plea by the National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, an organization of lawyers.
On 16 October 2015, the apex court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 that sought to give the executive a say in appointments to the higher judiciary.