Why would any Indian Government wish to have a say in the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges? Why would the executive want to meddle with the judiciary, the only institution in India that has remained relatively free of undue State interference? To ensure some kind of immunity from the long-reaching arm of India’s justice system, which does not discriminate between a Manmohan Singh and the guy next door?
With the rise in corruption cases involving high profile politicians, it is only natural that any ruling party would want to install a judge who would be sympathetic to the Government of the day. This is also one of the rare issues where all political parties are on the same page for obvious reasons…
The Supreme Court came down heavily on the State and declared the Government’s law, which would have given them a role in the appointment of judges, “illegal and unconstitutional”. It would have done away with the collegium system of appointment. A selection of higher judiciary, the way National Judicial Appointments Commission envisages it, would violate the basic fabric of the Constitution.
In the new law, the judges would have been chosen by a team of six members – the Chief Justice of India, the two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent persons, and the Law Minister.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the prevailing system, in place now for over 22 years, is grappling with issues. There is a need to check the lack of transparency, accountability and objectivity.
Chief Justice of India, R M Lodha, aptly pointed out: “I am sure that people in Judiciary, people in Executive and people in Parliament are mature enough to have mutual respect for each other and ensure that each of them is permitted to work in their sphere, unhindered by any extraneous influence”.
There are flaws the collegiums system too, but they are the lesser of the two evil. All the organs of the state should operate in their respective fields without encroaching on each other’s domain. From independence till 1993, the government selected the judges for higher courts, including the Supreme Court judges.