Even as the parliament considers the Judicial Appointment Commission (JAC) to replace the existing collegium system for the appointment of judges, Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has come out in support of the collegium system.
Lodha expressed anguish over the campaign to tarnish the image of the judiciary. "For God's sake, don't shake the confidence of people in the judiciary," added an exasperated Lodha.
"I am from the first batch of judges who came in via the collegium system, while Justice Nariman is the last one to be selected through it. If the system is imperfect then we are imperfect," he said.
Lodha also said there is a campaign to disrespect the judiciary and it is doing great damage. "There is a misleading campaign going across to defame the judiciary and repeated attempts have been made to spread incorrect information," he said.
The remarks were made while dismissing a PIL seeking to declare the decision of the collegium to recommend the name of Karnataka High Court judge, Justice KL Manjunath as Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court as non-binding. The PIL filed in the apex court by Ram Shankar had sought that in future all recommendations of the collegium on appointment of judges should be put on the apex court website. At the outset of the hearing, the bench wanted to know from the petitioner as to who informed him about the name recommended by the collegium. "Who told you that his (Manjunath) name has been recommended for elevation. Because I am the Chief Justice and I head the collegium, I am not sure and I don't know whether there is any other collegium," the CJI said.
"No one is perfect. The society is not perfect and we are from the society," he said.
However, former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju, said in his blog that "most Chief Justices of India (CJI) are reluctant to expose corruption in the judiciary". He said: "Most CJI are reluctant to expose corruption in the judiciary thinking that this will defame the judiciary, and so they prefer to bury corruption under the carpet, not realising that the bulge under the carpet will show... Does corruption by judges defame the judiciary, or does exposing such corruption defame it?" Katju questioned.
The government, on the other hand, has decided to hold wider consultations on bringing the JAC that will scrap the collegium system of appointment of judges. The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 was discussed at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on August 6 which has given its "in-principle" approval to the "broad contours" of the measure. But the bill was not cleared as it was felt that the result of the wider consultations should be awaited indicating that the proposed legislation could get delayed. The government is making efforts to bring the bill in the current session of Parliament but would not like to take any hasty step in view of the sensitivity in the judiciary on the issue, they said.
(With inputs from PTI)