Public view won't fetch what it's supposed to: AG on collegium

Asked if NJAC Act that has been struck down can be amended to make it acceptable to the Supreme Court, Rohatgi said "undoubtedly yes".

New Delhi: Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Friday said that inviting public opinions and suggestions will not improve the collegium system and appeared undeterred by the verdict holding as unconstitutional the NJAC Act saying Parliament has the power to change it.

"The court seems to feel that something good may come out of it. The attempt is in a right direction but it is going round and round. At the end of the day it will not fetch what it is supposed to. The Parliament has the power to change the current verdict," he said during an interview to an English news channel.

Rohatgi was also of the opinion that posts of judges should not be kept vacant till the time an outcome is reached on the issue of improving the system which is being debated in the Supreme Court, as doing so was "criminal".

"We have 38 percent vacancies in high courts. It is criminal not to fill up the posts as a person languishing in jail is losing six months in one go because you don't have a judge," he said.

He was responding to questions including whether there was a need to wait for appointment of judges till the time the apex court clears the air on the issue of improvement and bringing more transparency in the collegium system.

Asked if NJAC Act that has been struck down can be amended to make it acceptable to the Supreme Court, Rohatgi said "undoubtedly yes".

"It is the power of Parliament to do this," the top law officer said.

The Attorney General also said that the five-judge bench, which struck down the NJAC Act, felt "constrained" in going into the root of the system as the collegium was put in place by a nine-judge bench.

"The collegium system was put in place by a nine-judge bench. Wholesale changes can only be brought by a bench of at least nine judges. Five judges cannot upset what nine have done. Therefore they are feeling constrained into going to the root of the system," Rohatgi said.

He criticised that system of "closed club of only judges" making the appointments, saying it would not eradicate the ills from the system.

"If it is a closed club of only judges and you don't allow any other person to sit, i.E eminent lawyer or society or someone to criticise, the ills will continue," the AG said.

Stressing on the importance of transparency in the system, Rohatgi said it cannot be sacrificed as it brings with it "efficiency, accountability and lack of arbitrariness".

"We cannot sacrifice transparency as it brings with it efficiency, accountability and lack of arbitrariness. At present there are no applications or fixed criteria for appointment of judges and it is decided by word of mouth by few senior judges," he said.

According to Rohatgi, while making the appointments, inputs should be requested from the eminent members of the Bar, "who are true barometer of the standing of a lawyer".

"The problem is that most of the chief justices and even other judges come from outside the state and they don't know about the local Bar members. If a Chief Justice is in power for six months, what suggestion can be given to him," he said.

On being asked who will create the criteria for eligibility required to be a judge, Rohatgi said it is the job of the Parliament.

"The flesh and blood must come from a local act of the Parliament to fill up the Constitution," he said.




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