New Delhi: The Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam, on Saturday defended the collegium system for appointment of judges in higher judiciary but said it is a prerogative of the Centre to bring a Bill to change it.
"Now as CJI, I am not going into the contents of the Bill and how it was passed as it is the prerogative of the government and it is for the people to accept it or not. It is too early for me to say anything on Judicial Appointment Commission or Committee," Justice Sathasivan said while inaugurating a seminar on Rule of Law.
His remarks came after the President of Bar Association of India, Anil Divan, raised questions on the way the Centre brought the Bill "without" taking members of judicial fraternity into confidence and "rushed" it through in Rajya Sabha.
He said they never received any response from the Law Minister on the letter dated April 17 by top jurists of the country seeking a draft copy of the Bill.
The CJI said that the government and its agencies have a say in the present collegium system and their views are also taken into consideration for appointment of judges.
Justice Sathasivam said that no name is finalised until it gets clearance from the Law Minister, the Prime Minister and the President and in the whole mechanism, inputs from intelligence bureau, respective high courts and eminent people like sons of the soil, are taken into consideration.
He said judicial function is universally recognised as distinct and separate in the system of government and is the "very heart" of the republic and the "bulwark" of democracy. He said judicial accountability is fostered through the process of selection, discipline and removal found in the Constitution.
"...The success of a democracy largely depends upon an impartial strong and independent judiciary endowed with sufficient power to administer justice," the CJI said.
"Although both judicial independence and judicial accountability are vital for maintaining the rule of law, they are sometimes projected as conflicting phenomenon. Judicial accountability has become an indispensable counterbalance to judicial independence.
"In that connection, accountability is fostered through the process of selection, discipline and removal found in the Constitution and the statutes in various judicial systems," he said.
Stressing the need for an independent judiciary, he said, without it, there is a little hope for the rule of law. "Thus, the need for judicial independence is not for judges or the judiciary per se but for the people," he said.