Queries on Picking Judges
At a time when India is poised to shift from the institution of the Collegium to the one of the tiol Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) for the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court has directed the Union government to furnish records to verify if judges of doubtful integrity had ever been appointed by the Collegium despite opposition from the government. This directive is more a sort of challenge to the Union government than a directive to provide replies to the three specific questions posed by the learned judges. The questions are: (a) How many times have the recommendations by the high court chief justices been returned by the Supreme Court Collegium? (b) How many times did the Union government object to the recommendations? (c) How many times after government of India objected to any me has the Supreme Court iterated the decision? The questions posed to Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, a staunch defender of the NJAC, have prompted him to agree to examine the relevant records and place them before the apex court. The Supreme Court’s initiative has the near certainty of the Attorney-general having to come up with the response “never” to all three questions. But does the response really alter the fact that corruption has crept even into the Judiciary and even in high places? So far, two retired judges of the Supreme Court have stated that even some judges of the Supreme Court did not have kind of integrity expected of them. In fact, the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the mes proposed by the chief justices of high courts could well be a willingness to collude with such recommendations even when there were questions about a judge’s integrity. This would partially explain why senior advocate Ram Jethmalani is so strongly opposed to the Union Law Minister’s inclusion in the NJAC, since the Law Minister’s perpetual contact with the judges would be sufficient to create apprehensions in the minds of litigants about the independence of the Judiciary. After all, the Union government is the biggest litigant in the country.