Justice Lodha defends collegium system, says there is a campaign to defame judiciary

Campaign to disrespect judiciary doing great damage to an important organ of the system: R M Lodha.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: August 11, 2014 9:57 pm
Justice Lodha said that there were repeated attempts being made to spread incorrect information about the functioning and decisions of the collegium. (Source: Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey) Justice Lodha said that there were repeated attempts being made to spread incorrect information about the functioning and decisions of the collegium. (Source: Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

On the day that the government introduced a 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 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.”

The CJI’s remarks came hours before the government withdrew from the Rajya Sabha a Bill by the previous UPA government for setting up a National Judicial Commission and bringing two Bills in the Lok Sabha, including a constitution amendment for ushering in a new system of appointment. Later in the day, the government introduced a Bill to replace the collegium system in the Lok Sabha.

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 CJI S H Kapadia and three other former CJIs about corrupt practices by some High Court judges, but they failed to take action.

Questioning Kapadia’s role in not sacking a “corrupt judge” of Allahabad HC, Justice Katju, in his latest blog, said: “In response to my statement, Justice Kapadia has said that he did not remember this. It is strange that he has no recollection of this, but the record would be existing with the intelligence agency concerned, and perhaps also in the official file of the Chief Justice.”

He added, “Justice Kapadia also said that he did not bring any judge to the Supreme Court who was unfit. I may remind him that the Supreme Court collegium, headed by CJI KG Balakrishnan and of which Justice Kapadia was a member, almost succeeded in bringing a totally unfit person into the Supreme Court.”

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  1. Z
    Zen Bhatia
    Aug 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm
    Chief Justice Lodha should not whitewash the charges of Ex. Justice Katju just opining that some one is attempting to bring justice system in to disrespect., Rather he should take the charges seriously and appoint a commission to inquire in to the charges, and let the findings prove whether Justice Katju is wrong or right. If there is a little truth in Justice Katju's charges, the sitting Judges need to be either disciplined, charged or be removed from their positions. Tainted and corrupt politicians are bad for the nation but tainted and corrupt judges are much worst for the society and the nation.
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    1. M
      MohanThoreau
      Aug 12, 2014 at 6:57 am
      Justice dela is Justice denied. The fundamental failure of Indian Judiciary is back-log of cases, Lack of funding for staffing, equipment and adequate premises at gr root level. Judiciary and Bar failed to maintained education and competency standards. Following verdict against then PM Mrs. Indira hi and consution amendment that followed to save her election, Judiciary became under dog of the governments although Consutional embly created Judiciary as independent and equivalent branch of Government and our democracy. Founding fathers did not expected Judiciary to cow down to mob mentality of elected officials.There is also a lack of Volunteerism from the successful members of the Bar to serve in Judiciary.Judiciary must be well paid and code of conduct should be followed with transparency.Judiciary should have power to oversee Police departments.All judges should be appointment by President of India under recommendation of the independent Judicial commission.There should be a Bar exam for lawyers before they are allowed to practice in the court of law.There should be Judicial Service Commission that is equivalent to or better than UPSC.There should be a confederation of law colleges to establish and maintain curriculum and training of Lawyers and Judges.
      Reply
      1. S
        Satish Sharma
        Aug 12, 2014 at 11:52 am
        Justice Lodha as head of Indian judiciary is naturally anxious to protect the supremacy of the collegium in the choice of fellow judges. But there is enough evidence to warrant accountability of the judiciary too within the framework of our federal structure. The bill introduced in Parliament seeks just to do that without hurting the theory and practice of separation of powers.
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        1. N
          Nitin Singh
          Aug 11, 2014 at 10:05 am
          What is the present condition of Indian Judicial System?? U can easily see a lot number of cases are pending... and more number of cases are not even in records.. and whose mistake is it?? Sir you believe or not there is some fault in Our Judicial system but it doesn't mean we are free to criticize it but definitely we need to take some corrective actions.
          Reply
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            Vijay
            Sep 14, 2014 at 3:35 am
            Mr. Lodha should categorically explain the allegations put by Mr. Katju.
            Reply
            1. S
              Subramanian Venkatraman
              Sep 14, 2014 at 4:51 am
              If "there is a campaign to defame judiciary", I am afraid it is run very well by the judiciary itself. The Court is 'famous' for giving priority to peions concerning well connected people and in the process holding up other litigants wait inordinately for justice; getting adjournments depended upon how senior was the advocate asking for it and not whether it was legitimate; if the Supreme Court while self-managing all its affairs considers decades old delays compliments its administration of justice, well, we do not need it. Above all who can forget the supreme 'Supreme Court' holding the Emergency as legitimate! It is one of their own judges who has washed its dirty linen in public. All others had always addressed it "Your Honour" and "Respectfully submitted" their pleadings. Of late its interference with administration at the drop of a hat has been questioned by many eminent persons. Even if the Government interferes with it, I do not think it will be worse than its interference with government activities.
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                Govinda
                Aug 11, 2014 at 8:40 am
                Chief Justice of India should introspect and then give the statement. If the society is not perfect and hence judiciary is not perfect does not suite a person who is heading Indian Judicial system. He should tell how a corrupt judge will be punished. This will bring belief in the justice system. How do I know the judge is not corrupt when I take a case to the court. Collegium system is closed system. We need a open system which will select the judge.
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