Controversy over latest SC appointments show how opaque the collegium system still is

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New Delhi | Published: January 17, 2019 3:30:56 AM

The fact that one of the four judges who sought greater probity from the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra should himself face similar demands—albeit in a matter where the lack of transparency is institutional—is rich in irony.

Supreme Court, sc, supreme court collegiumSupreme Court

The fact that one of the four judges who sought greater probity from the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra should himself face similar demands—albeit in a matter where the lack of transparency is institutional—is rich in irony. The January decision of the present Supreme Court collegium, which is headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, to elevate two high court judges to the apex court by superseding 32 judges with greater seniority, has drawn flak from sitting Supreme Court judges, with one of them writing to the President against the decision. What makes the matter murkier is that, in December, the collegium had decided to elevate P Nandrajog, Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, to the apex court. The December collegium comprised the same judges as the January one, except for Justice Madan Lokur who retired later in December, with the addition of Justice Arun Mishra. The December decision was overturned ostensibly because the selection of Justice Nandrajog and Justice Rajendra Menon of the Delhi High Court was leaked to the media. But, why a media leak that happened after the selection should result in a overturning of the December decision is not clear. However, the Supreme Court and judicial transparency cut a sorry figure when the continued opacity of the collegium system is what needs to be questioned.

Indeed, when the apex court junked the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, terming it unconstitutional, it had acknowledged the shortcomings of the collegium system and had called for greater transparency. More than three years after, even as the Supreme Court posts collegium decisions online, questions linger over the rationale behind the decisions themselves. The latest controversy shows that, while there is an appearance of transparency, the process remains as veiled as ever.

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