New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the central government to frame and submit a draft memorandum of procedure for judicial appointments.
The memorandum of procedure is a document framed by the executive which prescribes the manner in which judges of the apex court and high courts, including the chief justices, will be appointed.
A bench comprising justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel, which on 16 October struck down the constitutional amendment introducing a six-member panel for recommending names for judicial appointments, is now hearing suggestions to improve the existing system.
In the current system, names for the apex court appointments are recommended by the chief justice of India to the law ministry, which then sends the same to the prime minister’s office. The CJI consults the four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court before recommending the names. This group of five judges is referred to as the collegium.
The collegium system of appointments has been severely criticised for lacking transparency, among other things.
In an unprecendented move, the apex court sought suggestions not just from legal luminaries, but the public also, to improve the existing system of judicial appointments.
In all, over 1,500 suggestions have been received, a condensed report on which was submitted to the court.
Suggestions ranged from appointing a permanent secretariat to assist the collegium, to increasing the number of women in the higher judiciary.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the court that merit had taken a backseat in judical appointments, and judges got elevated solely because of seniority.
The 36-page report submitted to the court, a copy of which Mint has reviewed, has extensive suggestions on transparency. One said all apex court and high court appointments need to have a well-defined eligibility criteria including age, merit, seniority, integrity, and academic qualifications. Another said applications from candidates must indicate relatives who are judges. A third said judges should disclose political affiliations.
Some suggestions also stressed on the need for confidentiality in judicial appointments, presumably to reduce interference by the executive.
One asked that proceedings of the collegium be recorded and transferred to the National Archive of India after 30 years.