On the day that the government introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges, Chief Justice of India R M Lodha on Monday defended the existing mechanism while lashing out at the “unfair” and “misleading campaign” to defame the judiciary and tarnish its image.
“There is a misleading campaign to defame the judiciary and repeated attempts have been made to spread incorrect information. If there is a campaign to defame the judiciary in the eye of the public, you are doing great damage to a very important organ of the democracy. Don’t shake people’s confidence in the judiciary. For God’s sake, don’t try to defame the judiciary,” said the CJI, presiding over a three-judge Bench which was hearing a PIL related to the efficacy and transparency of the collegium system.
“The world is not perfect. No system is perfect, no one is perfect, the society is not perfect and we all are from the society. We are not perfect. We cannot be, but we are a very important institution in a democracy,” said the CJI. The bench included Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman.
“I am from the first batch of judges selected via collegium and Justice Nariman is the last one to be selected. At present, all the judges of the Supreme Court and high courts are products of the collegium system. If the collegium system has failed, then the products too have failed. If you say so, we have also failed and the judiciary as a whole has failed… everything has failed,” said the CJI, adding that the campaign to defame the judiciary is doing a great disservice to the country.
He said repeated attempts were being made to spread incorrect information about the functioning and decisions of the collegium, whereas the judges were more concerned about “the purity of system.”
“Everyone is out to condemn the collegium system, terming it as a failure. As an institution, the collegium has its limitations in selecting persons. After all, judges too come from the same society. But to carry on a campaign just because of allegations against one or two judges is unfair,” said the bench.
The PIL, filed by advocate Ram Shankar, sought details of the collegium meeting that reportedly cleared Justice K L Manjunath’s elevation as Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court despite alleged corruption charges, besides scrutiny of the collegium’s decisions in public domain and more transparency.
But the CJI rubbished reports of Manjunath’s elevation, saying, “Who told you the collegium has recommended Justice Manjunath’s elevation? I am the Chief Justice. I head the collegium. We have not made any recommendation.”
Notably, Justice Lodha’s observations came a day after former SC Judge and Press Council of India chairperson Markandey Katju alleged that he had informed former continued…