Top Court issues guidelines to improve Collegium system

RSTV Bureau

supreme_courtAsking the Centre to prepare a Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) to amend Collegium system, the Supreme Court of India has issued guidelines to improve the existing system of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary. Coming out with their guidelines on Wednesday morning, the apex court said views of the Centre and States should be taken into account. The Court has also sought Central government to prepare a Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

The hearing over improving the Collegium system, in existence since 1993, was necessitated after the Supreme Court had quashed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in October terming the legislation as “unconstitutional”. While striking down the NJAC Act, the apex court had admitted that there is scope and perhaps a requirement to improve the existing collegium system.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar asked the Centre to take into consideration suggestions on the issues of eligibility, transparency, setting up Secretariat for appointment of judges, redressal of complaints and other issues in the MOP on appointment of judges.

The constitutional bench also said the MOP on appointment of judges in higher judiciary should be finalised with consultation of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), who will take decision in consultation with complete unanimity of the Collegium consisting of four next senior judges.

The apex court constitutional bench, which also comprised justices J Chelameswar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and AK Goel, cited the following parameters to be considered before finalising the MoP:

Eligibility criteria: 

MOP should take note of describing minimum age which will act as guidance of the Collegium and the views of state governments and the Centre should also be taken into account.

Transparency:

Emphasising that transparency is the most important aspect in selection and appointment of judges, the bench said proceedings for the appointment and every aspect related to it should be on the website of the Ministry of Law and Justice and the concerned high court and Supreme Court.

The bench also said the minutes of discussion and consultations should be recorded including that of dissent, if any, but the transparency has to be balanced with the requirement of confidentiality.

Secretariat:

The MOP should also consider establishing Secretariat for each High Court and the Supreme Court in interest of better management and function of Collegium for judges’ appointment.

Complaint Redressal:

The court also said that the MOP should contain appropriate complaint mechanism.

While concluding its order, the constitution bench said these guidelines are broad suggestions in view of the submissions made before it.

The court passed the order after noting the submission of AG Mukul Rohatgi that the Centre will finalise the MOP in consultation with the CJI. Earlier, during the course of hearing, the Centre had expressed its inability to formulate the draft MOP.

(With inputs from the PTI)