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HomePolicyA Disconcerting Disclosure: Flaws in the Judicial Appointment System

A Disconcerting Disclosure: Flaws in the Judicial Appointment System

By Tanvi Sharma

Edited by Liz Maria Kurkiakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

It is sad that in our country whistleblowers are seen with scant regard and are questioned on their motive and timing. The disconcerting disclosure made by the former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju has once again exposed the shortcomings in our judicial appointments system. Moreover, the questions being raised on Mr. Katju himself display our lack of appreciation towards whistleblowers. There is a very thin line between a whistleblower and a motivated accuser and therefore anybody who has the courage to stand up against the system must be ready to face grueling questions and unwarranted accusations.

Former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju’s allegations that three successive Chief Justices of India made “improper compromises” to save a “corrupt judge” of the Madras High Court need to be thoroughly probed. The allegations raise serious questions about judicial independence and reflects a serious faceoff between the judiciary and the executive. The corrupt forces of the judiciary and the executive were working in tandem during the UPA-1 regime. Mr. Katju has brought forward a troubling feature of a sensitive issue i.e. the judicial appointments system. Judicial appointments have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The latest tussle between the judiciary and the NDA government over the proposed elevation of Karnataka High Court Judge KL Manjunath as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High court confirms how the judiciary and the executive function and how only “favorable people” are appointed to “favorable posts.”

The collegium system was devised to ensure that the judiciary is insulated from undue political interference. However, the opposite has happened. A tainted High Court Judge was allowed to continue during the UPA-1 regime which is an allegation too serious to be neglected. Political interference has always thwarted judiciary and this is yet another case posing a threat to posterity. According to the collegium system, the appointments and transfers of judges can be done through a forum consisting of the Chief Justice of India and four senior judges of the Supreme Court. In such a scenario, how could the government exert pressure over the judiciary for the extension of the term of a tainted High Court Judge? Actually, the collegium system has been under attack for its complete opacity. It is a closed door affair without a formal system in place threatening the transparency of the system. It is due to this opacity that a “give and take” affair between the government and judiciary has blossomed.

However, of late there has been political consensus that collegium system must be replaced. Meanwhile, advocate Prashant Bhushan, convenor of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform, said: “Unfortunately, neither the judiciary nor the government wants to have a rational and transparent system for selecting judges. Each just wants a greater part of the appointments pie, without ensuring that the system will select the most honest and competent judges.”

Now, it is the responsibility of the new government to rethink our judicial appointments system and devise a better system instead. Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister has realized that “there is an imperative need to improve the system of appointment of judges.” Well, only time will tell how this need is addressed!

Tanvi firmly believes in the power of words over weapons. She is here to change the way people look at things. An avid reader, a closet singer and an inveterate foodie who can live her entire life on the Internet.

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