Top lawyers divided on new system of judicial appointments
New Delhi: Eminent lawyers Ram Jethmalani and Anil Diwan on Saturday opposed the new system for senior judges’ appointments, contending respectively that government as the biggest litigant could not take this role, and affect the judiciary’s independence but senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina pitched for giving the NJAC a chance.
“We must have a system of appointment of judges where a litigant has no voice in the appointment of judges,” Jethmalani said at a seminar here, as he assailed the presence of the union law minister as one of the six members of the National Judicial Appointment Commission.
Contending the litigant goes to the court against corrupt and illegal actions of the executive, Jethmalani said: “Therefore, process for the appointment of judge should be such that it should not create a slightest impression of prejudice in the mind of the litigants.”
In his keynote address at the seminar organized by the Res Publican Law Society, on “The National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014”, Jethmalani said that there must be complete respect and distance between judges and the litigant.
He expressed an apprehension that the law minister’s presence could result in a situation of quid pro quo in the selection of judges for appointment to higher judiciary.
“Corrupt politicians always want corrupt judiciary,” Jethmalani said making an impassioned plea to keep executive off in the appointment of judges.
Parliament in 2014 had amended the constitution to replace the collegium system of appointment of judges by the National Judicial Appointment Commission. The National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014 had also been passed in August 2014.A
Contending that the law minster had no role in the NJAC, Jethmalani said that instead an eminent jurist should be there to represent the legal fraternity and one from the academic world. He described as “vote bank politics” the provision for the representative of the scheduled caste/tribes, weaker sections and minorities in the NJAC.
Opposing the NJAC, Diwan, another eminent jurist, said that the panel would be dependent on the government for all its activities which may result in coloured or doctored dossiers being placed before the commission of the people to be considered for selection and appointment of judges.
Expressing serious apprehension on the NJAC’s working, he said that there was every possibility of the government creating an adverse dossier of a potential candidate to thwart his selection.
Besides other things that count for ensuring the independence of judiciary, Divan said that the appointment of judges with independent inclination has to be safeguarded at the entry point itself.
However, batting for NJAC, Andhyarujina assailed the collegium system saying nowhere in the world did such a situation exist where judges will decide on appointments.
In a situation where there was a total lack of credibility in the collegium system, parliament had to step in, he said.
Urging that NJAC should be operationalised, Andhyarujina said: “Why do you condemn a system without giving it a chance.”