Vice President enters Collegium Debate; Recalls NJAC repeal

Vice President enters Collegium Debate; Recalls NJAC repeal

Context- Vice President in an oblique reference to 2015 judgement striking down National Judicial Appointments Commission said that it is “ never too late to reflect”

What is Collegium System?

It is a system of appointments and transfers of various judges which has evolved through various Supreme Court Judgements. Article 124 of the constitution provides that every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.

Evolution of the System:

  • First Judges Case (1981):

It declared that the “primacy” of the CJI’s (Chief Justice of India) recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.” In other words, It empowered Executive to reject Judicial recommendations for Judicial appointments for the next 12 years.

  • Second Judges Case (1993):

SC introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” (Art 124) really means “concurrence” of judges. However, It was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.

  • Third Judges Case (1998):

SC on the President’s reference (Article 143) expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.

What comprises Collegium System?

  • The SC Collegium is headed by Chief Justice of Indiaand comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
  • A High Court collegium is led by the incumbent Chief Justiceand two other senior most judges of that court.

What is the Procedure for Judicial Appointments?

Collegium (including all consultees) record their opinions in writing. Then the recommendations are forwarded to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President. The President of India finally appoints the Judges.

What are the issues with the collegium system?

  • Promotes Favouritism and Nepotism in the higher Judiciary.
  • Concentrates appointment and transfer powers solely in Judiciary with few checks and balances
  • Opaque system raises doubts over the integrity of the process.
  • No system of accountability for those placing recommendations.
  • High number of vacant posts in higher judiciary due to delay in recommendations.
  • Less representation of women, minorities and weaker sections.

What was National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)?

 ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission’ was a constitutional body proposed to replace collegium system of  appointing judges in the Higher Judiciary (through 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014). It was struck down by the Supreme court in 2015 on the ground that it posed a threat to the independence of the Judiciary.

Way forward-

Moving towards a permanent institutional body to replace collegium system should be done with sufficient safeguards so as to ensure judicial primacy ,but, not judicial exclusivity.

Syllabus- Mains; GS-2; Supreme Court