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HomeIndiaGovernanceSC collegium to make recommendations public, lawyers say it’s ‘merely cosmetic’

SC collegium to make recommendations public, lawyers say it’s ‘merely cosmetic’

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After the brouhaha over Justice Jayant Patel, collegium resolves to be more transparent, but some senior lawyers want minutes of meetings too.

New Delhi: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court collegium has resolved to make public all its recommendations on appointments of judges to the higher judiciary. The collegium said it wants to ensure transparency.

The present collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said copies of all recommendations sent to the government on appointments will be uploaded on the court website. Judges J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, and Kurian Joseph are other members of the collegium.

While experts have welcomed the collegium’s much-awaited first step towards transparency, many say the decision is merely cosmetic.

 

How the system works

After obtaining the opinion of intelligence agencies, the government appoints judges recommended by the collegium. However, the collegium’s decision is final.

The recommendations of the collegium cannot be challenged in court, and information cannot be sought even under the Right to Information Act.

The system, however, has been criticised for being cloaked in secrecy. In 2015, even the apex court, while striking down executive interference in appointing judges, acknowledged that peer-appointment needs to be more transparent.

Mixed reception

Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand said although the decision could have come earlier, it was still a first step towards ensuring accountability and transparency.

“It is a welcome decision, and hopefully the court will only take this forward and not stop at this. The citizens need to know exactly how and why our judges are appointed,” she said.

On the other hand, senior advocate Dushyant Dave was among those who felt this move wasn’t enough.

“The recommendations themselves reveal nothing. If the collegium wants to embrace transparency, then minutes of the collegium meetings must be made public,” he said.

However, Alok Prasanna Kumar, senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, said the new disclosures would be adequate.

“The reasons for appointment are more important than who proposed the names and who disagreed. As long as it is a majority decision, it should be accepted as it is,” he said.

The resolution comes weeks after former high court judge Jayant Patel resigned in protest on being transferred to another high court. Criticism poured in against the collegium’s decision, since no reasons were given for the transfer.

“The criticism seems to have stuck a chord with the judiciary. The lawyers and Justice Patel deserve credit for speaking out,” Kumar added.

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