It is heartening that the Supreme Court has finally opened up its doors to greater transparency in matters of judicial appointments, a demand that it had been resisting in the past. In what is a momentous decision, the apex court Collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four other senior judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — has resolved to make all its recommendations public on the court’s website.
The website will also indicate the reasons for making particular recommendations, which will ensure objectivity. This fulfils a long-standing demand of the Narendra Modi government and is a shot in the arm for the judiciary applying the same standards of transparency to itself that it seeks from others.
The Collegium passed the resolution, specifying that what would be covered under the new norm of transparency would be cases relating to initial elevation to the High Court Bench, confirmation as permanent Judge(s) of the High Court, elevation to the post of Chief Justice of High Court, transfer of High Court Chief Justices/Judges and elevation to the Supreme Court.
The SC Collegium has been often criticised for its opaqueness and lack of objective criteria for assessing candidates. The Collegium and the government have failed to reach a consensus regarding a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), which has to guide all future appointments. While finalisation of the MoP remains pending after the CJI sent the Collegium’s draft around five months ago, the Collegium’s resolution has broken new ground in sending a signal that the apex court is not averse to letting people know how judges are appointed.
That this move from the new Chief Justice Dipak Misra just before he moves to appoint 10 judges in the Supreme Court is particularly reassuring and reflects his fair intent. The judiciary must now address the issue of the huge arrears of cases pending in various courts which reflects the failure of the judiciary to dispense speedy justice which is a sad commentary on the system as it has prevailed. There cannot be a more pressing reform than this.
There is also a dire need for the judiciary to look into the aspect of greater accountability of judges to ensure that a few black sheep (corrupt judges) do not succeed in tarnishing the image of the judiciary as a whole.