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Collegium system has failed, say ex-CJs, eminent jurists

Tuesday, 29 July 2014 - 7:20am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

  • Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shanti Bhushan, Soli Sorabjee and Fali S Nariman PTI

The collegium system for appointment of judges has failed and it needs to be replaced, eminent jurists and former chief justices have told the government during consultations on the issue.

"Majority were of the opinion that the collegium system has failed and it needs to be changed," said attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who was one of the participants in the consultation process convened by the ministry of law and justice.

Another participant told dna that even former chief justices, who headed the collegiums during their tenure, were of the opinion that the system has failed to deliver and it should be substituted with a commission comprising majority of the Supreme Court judges.

One jurist said, "Upendra Bakshi felt there was no evidence that the collegium system had failed."

Bakshi is a legal scholar and Padma Shri awardee.

Constitution experts Fali Nariman and Soli Sorabjee are learnt to have said that there must be no tinkering with the basic structure of the Constitution.

The government is learnt to have assured the jurists that the exercise was aimed at ensuring more transparency in the appointment process to allow the best of judges enter the higher judiciary.

Most participants were not in favour of the pre-1993 system in which the executive had the sole power to appoint the judges but they certainly wanted an improvement in the system favouring inclusion of more judges in the process, he said.

Seeking to scrap the collegium system, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and finance minister Arun Jaitley have consulted former chief justices of India and top jurists on the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "There was a consensus for improvement and the need for making it (appointment of judges) more transparent."

Asked whether there was a consensus on scrapping the collegium system, Prasad said, "it will not be appropriate for me to make a public statement in this regard".

Prominent among those who attended Monday's consultations included former chief justices A M Ahmadi and V N Khare. Besides, government's two top law officers -- attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and solicitor general Ranjit Kumar -- other leading lawyers were former attorney generals Soli Sorabjee and K Parasaran, Fali Nariman, K T S Tulsi and K K Venugopal were among the senior jurists who attended the consultations.

Former chief justice of India, R C Lahoti, who too was invited by the government in the consultation process, was not present. When contacted, his office told dna that "Justice Lahoti does not want to comment anything on it."

The government's initiative comes a week after former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju revealed that during the Congress-led UPA government, three former chief justices of India had compromised the independence of judiciary due to political pressure for appointment of a corrupt judge in Madras High Court.

The law minister had on July 21 said the government is seeking the views of various political parties and eminent jurists for setting up a Judicial Appointments Commission, which is one of points in the BJP manifesto.

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