Collegium system lacks transparency: SC judge

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) The present collegium system lacks “transparency, accountability and objectivity”, a Supreme Court judge said on Friday while stressing the need to improve the system.

Justice Kurian Joseph, while sticking down the law on judicial appointments, said the “trust deficit” had affected the credibility of the collegium system — as observed at times by the civic society.

The constitution’s 99th amendment making provision for the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was brought to replace the 1993 collegium system for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.

Justice Kurian Joseph in his separate judgment said the “collegium system needs to be improved requiring a ‘glasnost’ and a ‘perestroika’, and hence the case needs to be heard further in this regard”.

Quite often, serious allegations, and many a time not unfounded too, had been raised that its approach had been highly subjective, he said.

“Deserving persons have been ignored wholly for subjective reasons, social and other national realities were overlooked, certain appointments were purposely delayed so as either to benefit vested choices or to deny such benefits to the less patronised, selection of patronised or favoured persons were made in blatant violation of the guidelines resulting in unmerited, if not, bad appointments, the dictatorial attitude of the collegium seriously affecting the self-respect and dignity, if not, independence of judges, the court, particularly the Supreme Court, often being styled as the court of the collegium, the looking forward syndrome affecting impartial assessment, have been some of the other allegations in the air for quite some time.”

These allegations certainly call for a “deep introspection” as to whether the institutional trusteeship has kept up the expectations of the framers of the constitution, said Justice Kurian Joseph.

He added: “Though one would not like to go into a detailed analysis of the reasons, I feel that it is not the trusteeship that failed, but the frailties of the trustees and the collaborators which failed the system. To me, it is a curable situation yet.

“There is no healthy system in practice. No doubt, the fault is not wholly of the collegium. The active silence of the executive in not preventing such unworthy appointments was actually one of the major problems,” said Justice Kurian Joseph.

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