Centre is unlikely to recommend bringing the process of appointment of judges to higher judiciary under the RTI ambit as it apprehends it could lead to a flood of applications from aspirants and “interested parties” seeking file notings and other details. There are calls to make the appointments in higher judiciary more transparent, especially after the hearing in the Supreme Court to improve collegiums system after it had quashed the law to appoint judges – NJAC Act – last year.
However, at the same time, the government is likely to include a clause that any dissent note to a recommendation of the collegium to appoint or elevate a judge should be mandatorily shared with the Executive.
According to the sources in government, bringing the appointment and elevation process of judges to the Supreme Court and 24 high courts within the purview of the transparency law would not be practical as the collegium would be flooded with applications from those aspiring for the posts and other “interested parties”.
When the Supreme Court was hearing ways to improve the collegium system, Central government had pressed for bringing the system of appointment under the ambit of RTI to usher in greater transparency in the appointment system.
Chief Justice of India and members of the collegiums will take a final call on the draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) which the government will hand over to the CJI in the coming days. The MoP is a roadmap on how a judge will be appointed.
As of now, there are two MoPs — one concerning the appointment of Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other judges of the Supreme Court and the other dealing with appointment of chief justices and other judges of high courts.
The hearing over improving the Collegium system, in existence since 1993, was necessitated after the apex court quashed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act 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 had 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, which also comprised justices J Chelameswar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and AK Goel, 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.
(With inputs from PTI)