The collegium debate is set to play out in open court now as the National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms has challenged its legitimacy.
New Delhi: The National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, an association of advocates, moved the Supreme Court Monday seeking major reforms in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
The move comes on the heels of protests in support of former high court judge Jayant Patel, who resigned last month after being transferred by the collegium, instead of getting elevated as chief justice of a high court.
Under the collegium system, the five senior-most judges of the apex court appoint their colleagues and judges of various high courts.
The association states that its agenda is to secure an alternate mechanism for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary. It has called for an open selection of judges by notifying vacancies and inviting applications.
Its president, Mathews J. Nedumpara, says an urgent hearing will be sought for the case: “We will mention it before the chiefjustice tomorrow and ask for immediate hearing.”
The association had filed a similar plea before the apex court in 2016 which was dismissed.
The petition states that transferring judges of the high court without stating reasons undermines the constitutional standing of high courts. “Though the collegium of the Supreme Court being [sic] the ultimate authority in the matter of transfer and appointment of high court judges and their peers in the Supreme Court, the undeniable perception is that the high courts have lost the independence which the founding fathers have envisaged.”
After being acting chief justice of the Gujarat High Court in 2015, Justice Patel was transferred to the Karnataka High Court, where he was the second most senior judge. Last month, he resigned after the collegium reportedly transferred him to the Allahabad High Court, where he would have been the third most senior judge, virtually ending his chance to be the chief justice of any high court.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat Advocates’ Association has written to the collegium seeking the paper trail of its meetings in which a decision on Justice Patel’s transfer was taken.
The association’s president, Asim Pandya, told ThePrint that a case will be filed within two days against the collegium’s decision. A two-member panel has been set up to draft the petitions to be filed before the apex court.