CJI should be appointed by selection, says ex SC judge

Last Updated: Saturday, April 23, 2011 - 23:45

New Delhi: Former Supreme Court judge
Justice Kuldeep Singh on Saturday stressed the need for appointment
of the Chief Justice of India through a transparent selection
process instead of the present policy of having the seniormost
judge occupying the post.



He called for enforcing strict tranparency and
accountability in the appointment and elevation of judges and
functioning of the collegium system to eradicate corruption in
the judiciary.
"The appointment of the Chief Justice of India who is
considered to be the most powerful person in the country
should be strictly by a pure and simple processs of selection
and not seniority," he said while delivering the keynote
address at the Dr Kailas Nath Katju Memorial Lecture 2011.



Recalling his experience as a judge of the apex court,
Justice Singh said that about eight seniormost judges of the
Supreme Court were elevated as Chief Justices of India despite
facing charges.



"One of them was last year awarded the Padma
Vibhushan," he said amidst laughter among the audience.



Justice Singh also said that in one instance when he
was also a part of the then collegium, a particular judge of
the Kerala High Court was elevated as Chief Justice of the
High Court without his knowledge. It was something which
should not have been done, he said.



He observed that "corrupt in this country are promoted
not imprisoned."



The former apex court judge lamented that despite two
decades of collegium system in the country, the judiciary had
failed to evolve a transparent and accountable system of
appointments.



He said nobody knows today why a particular judge is
transferred or elevated. "Transparency is very important," he
said and cited the recent episode involving Sikkim Chief
Justice P D Dinakaran whose elevation was stalled after
allegations of land grabbing and charges of misconduct
surfaced against him.
Expressing anguish at growing corruption in the country,
Justice Singh said, "Earlier bribe was paid to get wrong
things done, but today bribe is paid even to get right things
done, at right time."



Advocating early passage of the judicial accountability
bill, he said judges should not be unduly apprehensive about
the legislation.



"It is high time you got accountability in judiciary,"
Singh said while pointing out that "India is seen as a grim
picture of corruption" in the rest of the world.



Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma said the real
strength of judiciary was public confidence and there ought to
be more transparency and accountability of judges.



"More transparency would lead to greater public
confidence in the judiciary," he said.



Justice Verma said judges should not be averse to
transparency as their primary function of adjudication is done
in transparent manner like hearing the matters in the open
court, passing judgements which are subjected to fair
criticism and public scrutiny.



When the primary function can be subjected to scrutiny,
why not the functioning of the collegium system and judges`
appointments, which are secondary functions, be made
transparent and accountable, he asked.



"Why not people should know how judges are appointed.
Entire correspondence be on record and available for public
scrutiny," he said.
Referring to the recent public response on the Jan
Lokpal Bill, Justice Verma said the development was on account
of the failure of the internal mechanism of administration.



"The Government`s response was fair. Public anger has
to be channelised in the right direction; it should not be
allowed to be destructive," he cautioned.



Eminent lawyer K K Venugopal suggested the setting up of
four "regional courts" in the country to act as an appellate
body over the High Court. He said the Supreme Court should
deal only with vital questions of law and important
Constitutional disputes.



Venugopal said it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court
today was overburdened with a plethora of cases which include
matrimonial, rent control and other petty disputes.



As a result of the overburden, "each of the 14 benches
of the Supreme Court today was giving inconsistent and
conflicting judgements."



He wanted death sentence cases to be heard by a
minimum of five judges as capital punishment once executed
cannot be reversed.



Venugopal cited an instance of a pension dispute of
1998 from Andhra Pradesh involving the aspirations of over
1.45 lakh pensioners. He regretted that even though the
dispute is yet to be adjudicated, 45,000 of the pensioners
have already died.
The senior counsel said that presently about 754 cases
are pending adjudication before larger benches.



Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu newspaper N Ram said the
judiciary compared to the other institutions like Legislature
and Executive score "relatively high marks."



Cautioning that it should not become a "super
legislature, " said perhaps in no other country of the world,
the judiciary has a self appointment process. He hoped the
present judicial accountability bill would address the
concern.



Ram felt that criminal defamation provision in the
statute was an unreasonable constraint on the freedom of
expression and speech. He said it showed intolerance to the
criticism.



Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju and noted
film producer and director Mahesh Bhatt were also present.



PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011 - 23:45

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