After Supreme Court judge J Chelameswar raised questions on the lack of transparency in Supreme Court collegium proceedings for selection of judges, two former Supreme Court judges, three retired Chief Justices of different High Courts and a retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court have written to the Chief Justice of India, saying that transparency in the collegium was required to meet the basic principles of natural justice.
The letter has been written by former judges of Supreme Court, Justices Kuldip Singh and H S Bedi, former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Justice S S Sodhi; former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court Justice M S Liberhan; former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice R N Aggarwal and former Acting Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice M S Gill. The six retired judges, based in Chandigarh, had earlier submitted suggestions to the Supreme Court through a petition regarding transparency in collegium proceedings.
This was done after the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court in October called for suggestions while delivering a judgment after considering the Memorandum of Procedure for appointing judges.
The judges have now communicated to the Chief Justice of India that though it would be the privilege of the collegium to lay down the methodology for maintaining a record of collegium proceedings, transparency in the collegium would satisfy those whose cases are under consideration.
When contacted, Justice Kuldip Singh said, “There must be transparency in the collegium since we are appointing judges.” Justice Bedi, who retired in 2011 after serving the Supreme Court for five years, said that as far as five judges in the Supreme Court collegium are concerned, “they are frank with each other.”
He further said, “Justice Chelameswar might be correct to some extent. But the judges outside the collegium are equally important as they represent various states and they should also be consulted while making judicial appointments.”
Justice Bedi added, “If they send letter for comments to judges outside collegium after finalising the decision, then the comments hardly matter in the case.” Reiterating the importance of transparent collegium proceedings, Justice Liberhan said, “I am one of the sufferers of the collegium. Injustice has perpetuated after the collegium system. Collegium system is a cactus.”
Justice Gill said he was part of the Punjab and Haryana High Court collegium for two years. “The then Chief Justice, in 2008, recommended certain non-deserving names for appointment of judges. I had to put down my foot and finally they were not selected. Had there been transparency, those names would not even have been recommended by the Chief Justice.”
He added, “The then Chief Justice called for a full court meeting next day. He wanted me and Justice J S Khehar (now Supreme Court judge) to be thrown out of the collegium and expand the collegium. We then requested all judges from Justice Khehar’s residence at Sector-4, Chandigarh, to vote as per conscience. Next day, the judges stood with us and the qorum was not complete.”