Breakthrough in long-running SC collegium opacity vs transparency negotiations / stalemate?Breakthrough in long-running SC collegium opacity vs transparency negotiations / stalemate?

The Supreme Court’s collegium of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and the next senior-most judges, justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, have begun to post recommendations for elevations and other business on a new ‘resolutions of the collegium’ section of its website according to minutes dated 3 October.

The first set of recommendations posted concern the elevation of judges to the Kerala (three judges) and Madras high courts (four and six judges in two separate recommendation documents).

The move is a bold one and will do much to defang the arguments of critics of secret collegium-style appointments, who have long been clamouring for reform of the system (the government's attempt in creating an arguably over-political National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was famously shot down by constitution bench).

Perceptually, it will also make it much harder for the government to reject recommendations given by the collegium without giving any reasons.

But, since the new system is entirely voluntary for the Supreme Court there is no guarantee that the judges will keep it up: its voluntary disclosure of judges' assets in 2012 now only lists the assets of 13 judges on its website, excluding those of many more recent appointees (and not having been updated with asset disclosures since 2012).

Let's hope SCOI push for transparency doesn't fizzle out like this did... Let's hope SCOI push for transparency doesn't fizzle out like this did...

A good beginning...

That said, for now it may be good enough to quell unabated criticism of the opacity in the system. Each candidate has been given a brief write-up by the collegium as to why they should be elevated.

For instance, regarding the Kerala high court, the resolution by the three senior most judges Misra, Chelameswar and Gogoi states:

In order to ascertain suitability of the above-named recommendees for elevation to the High Court, we have consulted our colleagues who are conversant with the affairs of the Kerala High Court. Copies of letters of their opinion received in this regard are placed below.

As per the existing guidelines issued by the Government of India on 24 th September 2004, “a Judicial Officer will be eligible for being considered for elevation as a Judge of the High Court if he is or was within the prescribed age limit of 58-1/2 years on the date of occurrence of the vacancy against which he is being considered, irrespective of when the Collegium recommends him for elevation as a Judge of the High Court.”

As per record, as on date, Ms. Annie John, has crossed the aforesaid prescribed age limit. However, since she was well within the prescribed age limit of 58-1/2 years on the date of occurrence of vacancy against which her name is being considered, she can be considered for elevation.

As regards Shri Ashok Menon (mentioned at Sl. No. 1 above), our consultee-colleagues have concurrently found him suitable for appointment as High Court Judge. One of them has stated that he knows Shri Menon for the last several years; that his integrity is very good and to his knowledge Shri Menon carries good reputation as Judicial Officer; that he has found his intellectual acumen as befitting for a Judge of the High Court and that he is quite suitable for appointment as Judge of the High Court of Kerala. Intelligence Bureau has reported that he enjoys a good personal and professional image and nothing adverse has come to notice against his integrity. Judgment Committee has found his judgment as ‘good’.

As regards Ms. Annie John (mentioned at Sl. No. 2 above), our consultee-colleagues have concurrently found her suitable for appointment as High Court Judge. One of them has stated that he knows Ms. John for the last several years; that her integrity is very good and to his knowledge Ms. John carries good reputation as Judicial Officer; that he has found her intellectual acumen as befitting for a Judge of the High Court and that she is quite suitable for appointment as Judge of the High Court of Kerala. Intelligence Bureau has reported that nothing adverse has come to notice against her integrity. As regards the comments regarding her professional competence, it is for the judiciary to assess her performance. Professional competence cannot be adjudged on the basis of unconfirmed/unsubstantiated inputs. Judgment Committee has found her judgment as ‘good’.

As regards Shri Narayana Pisharadi R. (mentioned at Sl. No. 3 above), our consultee-colleagues have concurrently found him suitable for appointment as High Court Judge. One of them has stated that he knows Shri Pisharadi for the last several years; that his integrity is very good and to his knowledge Shri Pisharadi carries good reputation as Judicial Officer; that he has found his intellectual acumen as befitting for a Judge of the High Court and that he is quite suitable for appointment as Judge of the High Court of Kerala. Intelligence Bureau has reported that he enjoys a good personal and professional image and nothing adverse has come to notice against his integrity. Judgment Committee has found his judgment as ‘good’.

We have taken note of the fact that the above proposal involves non-recommendation of a Judicial Officer of Kerala State Higher Judicial Service, who, in the seniority list of Judicial Officers, stands at a higher position than two of the above-named recommendees. In this regard, we are in agreement with the justification given by the High Court Collegium in its Minutes for overlooking his name.

Considering the material on record, views of the consultee-Judges, their Annual Confidential Reports, and the judgment assessment report, the Collegium finds all the above-named persons suitable for elevation to the High Court Bench. In view of the above, the Collegium resolves to recommend that (1) Shri Ashok Menon, (2) Ms. Annie John, and (3) Shri Narayana Pisharadi R., Judicial Officers, be appointed as Judges of the Kerala High Court. Their inter se seniority be fixed as per the existing practice.

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Like +0 Object -0 T65 06 Oct 17, 17:29
Once something progressive whose presence is long awaited gets into practice, it becomes difficult later on to get away from such thing.
This decision is one such decision whose voluntariness will later become a convention and will not be easy to ignore in the era which demands transparency in decisions by public institutions. Reminds of that famous quote justice must notbe done, it must be sen to be done.
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