Arguing that the collegiate system of appointing judges is here to stay, India’s former Chief Justice UU Lalit said on Sunday it was essential to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
Justice Lalit, who stepped down as the 49th CJI on November 9 after a brief 74-day term, insisted there were enough checks and balances in the Collegium system.
“In fact, the Supreme Court found that the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (passed by the previous Narendra Modi government) was unconstitutional. If the government tries to bring in the NJAC again, that is its prerogative. But as long as this is not brought, we will have to follow the established mechanism,” he said in conversation with reporters at his residence here.
He said the Collegium system is perfect and doesn’t need any fine-tuning.
Justice Lalit, however, agreed that the secretariat, established in the Supreme Court pursuant to the NJAC ruling, must be made fully functional as it would bring greater accountability.
The College comprises five senior Supreme Court justices who select judges to be appointed to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju recently criticized the Collegium system as opaque. He also said that judges spend half their time deciding who should be appointed judge, instead of delivering justice.
Responding to comments, Justice Lalit said the Collegium system is now an established standard after judicial approval by the Constitution benches. His (minister’s) comments are his personal opinion, he said.
“The Collegium system is foolproof. There are enough checks and balances. Collegium judges who select a judge are often from other states and so there is a check. Then there are reports from the Intelligence Bureau and the SC college is reviewing them,” he said.
“Chief Justice coming from outside is the best guarantee since he will only see talent in the High Court. That’s why HC Chief Justices come from out of states,” he said. -he adds.
The former CJI also explained that all members of the Collegium have a say in the nomination process. “It is for this reason that we have appointed nearly 250 judges to the College headed by (his predecessor) CJI NV Ramana. The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
Justice Lalit also said he was not disappointed that he could not appoint a single judge to the Supreme Court. The recommendation made by the Collegium to elevate Bombay High Court Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta in September has still remained pending with the Union government. Justice Lalit’s attempt to further recommend four names for elevation to the highest court failed due to opposition to the name circulation process by two members of the Collegium, namely Justices DY Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer.
Regarding the criticism over the creation of a bench on Saturday, a public holiday, to appeal against the discharge of former DU GN professor Saibaba in a Maoist link case, the former CJI said that he had formed the bench after a number of judges he had spoken of. to personally were not available.
“I hadn’t told any judge what the case was and what relief was sought. What social media is trying to project that he thought that was not the case at all,” he said. said, adding: “What happens before a particular bench is not under my control.”
Asked about the uproar over the acquittal of three defendants in the 2012 Chhawla gang rape case, Judge Lalit said only evidence counts in court and nothing else. “We couldn’t find material good enough to support the conviction,” he said.