Close on the heels of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government consulting legal luminaries and former chief justices of India over scrapping of collegium system for appointment of judges, former law minister HR Bhardwaj in an exclusive interview to dna said, “Collegium system is better than the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).”
Criticising the Modi government for finding fault with the judiciary, Bhardwaj said, “You can definitely point out faults in politicians but nothing should be said against the judiciary. This will tarnish the institution’s image and as a result people will lose confidence in the judiciary.”
The former Karnataka governor said the demand for scrapping the collegium system has been raised several times in the past but nothing came out of it. The Judicial Appointments Commission has its grey areas.
“Judicial commission has its own problems, so I thought it is better, why not take the chief justice into confidence. He may either review his case at a suitable time by a larger bench or a full court or he should insulate the political interference. I can say by and large the judicial view prevails upon the executive.
“If the commission includes political persons and others besides the judges of Supreme Court, it will not able to be able to quickly complete its task. Because when the discussion takes place by a large body of people, there would be deadlock...It is definitely better that the decision should be taken by the judiciary,” Bhardwaj said.
In case the present government wants to replace the collegium system, it needs a great debate... a lot of discussion and gauging of public opinion for overall improvement of the judiciary, the former minister said.
“Constitutional amendment is essential for a permanent body for the appointment of judges. Even in the alternative system, the view of judges should prevail,” he said.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and finance mnister Arun Jaitley had on Monday held discussions with jurists and former judges over the scrapping of collegium system. Most of those consulted were of the view that the existing collegium system for appointment of judges has failed and it needs to be changed. Judicial Appointments Commission could be an appropriate substitute for the existing system, they observed.
However, with regard to the structure and composition of the commission, there were some differences among the lawyers.
The present Law Commission chairman Justice AP Shah, some former chief justices of Supreme Court and some leading lawyers were of the view that in the proposed JAC, the judiciary should have more representation than the executive but the Centre’s law officers — attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and solicitor general Ranjit Kumar – felt otherwise.
They said that more representation to judiciary would negate the purpose of scrapping the collegium.
Prominent among those who had attended the consultation process included former CJIs AM Ahmedi and VN Khare, ex-law minister Shanti Bhushan, former attorney generals Soli Sorabjee, sitting Rajya Sabha MPs K Parasaran and KTS Tulsi and constitutional expert KK Venugopal.