Friday, May 01, 2015

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)

The Supreme Court is now hearing the case relating to appointment of judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. The Collegium system is in vogue now under which the names for filling up the vacancies are recommended by senior judges of the apex court and approved by the executive.

The executive wanted a greater role in judicial appointments and thus NJAC was sought to be formed. Requiring the court to sit in judgment over legality of NJAC is prima facie odd since the judiciary will not willingly let go its autonomy over appointment of judges. Whatever else may or may not be the ills of judiciary, it is never free from possessiveness. Some of the observations made by the 5-judge Bench hearing the case are a cause for concern.

The cosy club of judges does not want to give up the sole right to appoint their brethren and occasional sistren. It is strange but enlightening to hear the following confession from Justice Khehar who is heading the Bench: "The collegium, when it selects a name for appointment as judge, looks at only the candidate's judicial capability. It is left to the executive to do a profile check on the candidate's moral and professional integrity." Has he deliberately scored a self-goal? Does he expect the executive to be more concerned about the ethics than the judiciary?

The Bench has asked the attorney-general the following :

“How many names were recommended by a high court collegium but the Supreme Court returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity… How many names were referred by the Supreme Court collegium but the government returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity… How many names were sent back by the Supreme Court collegium after the government returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity?”

Is this information not available with the court? Is doubtful integrity such an open and shut case that it is transparent for the whole world to see and be unanimous about?

Prashant Bhushan has opined that NJAC may be as bad a system as the collegium. He may be cynical, but he seems to be clairvoyant too. If we are unable to trust either judiciary or the executive, the situation is rather grim.

No comments: