The career graph of a former Supreme Court judge became a hot topic of debate on Friday between the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench hearing the merits of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and the government on what qualities make an ideal judge.
On the last day of the government’s arguments to justify the replacement of the two decades-old collegium system of judges appointing judges with the “broad-based” NJAC law, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi once again took up the case of the particular former judge, saying he hardly rendered any judgment before he was elevated to the Supreme Court and the collegium went on to render laurels on him.
“In the Supreme Court, he was part of only five judgments of which in two he concurred with main judgments delivered. The two concurring judgments of his were each a paragraph long … and I am not taking all this out of a hat. I have looked at documents never shown to anyone before,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.
But Justice J.S. Khehar, who leads the Bench, countered why the government went ahead to appoint this judge in the NHRC when it had so little opinion of his prowess.
The Bench further asked whether a judge’s ability should be tested by the number of judgments he scripted.
“When you say someone should be ‘fit’ to be a judge, do you mean that we will need a medical certificate saying it is assured we will live till 65 years of age,” Justice Kurian Joseph asked the A-G.
Justice Madan B. Lokur, another of the judges on the Bench, said the evaluation procedure in the NJAC before a person was recommended to the Bench was mostly followed by the present collegium already.
“But the shroud of mystery associated with the collegium will not change. The provisions of the NJAC do not destroy the Constitution’s intent, it only adds transparency and roles to civil society, the executive and the judiciary,” Mr. Rohatgi replied.
The Attorney-General said proper guidelines would be in place for appointing judges.
Arguing for the State of Madhya Pradesh, senior advocate K.K. Venugopal said the 1993 judgment saw the judiciary wrested from the executive its “decisive voice” in judicial appointments.
“In India, it is myth to say that if judges are appointed by the executive, they would be loyal to the government. The most powerful judges whoever existed in the country were appointed by the executive,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.
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