Asserting that the collegium system had “limited but sufficient transparency”, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to list how many persons with “doubtful integrity” have been appointed as judges in the apex court and high courts by the collegium.
“You cannot say the collegium doesn’t have transparency at all. We don’t advertise vacancies but that does not mean the system is not transparent. It has limited but sufficient transparency,” said a Constitution Bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar.
“It (collegium) is not a closed door system, but to throw it open to all and sundry would invite a lot of representations. It still cannot be said that it is not transparent,” said the Bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Jospeph and Adarsh K Goel. “Just because there have been mistakes here and there does not mean the system is inconsistent or bad,” it added.
The government has projected the new National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) as a mechanism that is needed because the collegium system is not transparent and there is no criteria available in public domain justifying the appointments of judges.
The bench today maintained that the government was a participant in the entire process, and the names of the judges were cleared only after their backgrounds and credentials were verified by the home ministry.
“Has there been a singular name where it was pushed by the collegium but the person turned out to be of doubtful integrity? Is there a single case where the government said the integrity of the person is not good, yet he was appointed? We don’t know. Why don’t you give us the names if it ever happened,” the bench told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who, in his arguments, has been critical about the alleged opaqueness of the collegium system.
As Rohatgi sought time to furnish the details, the bench asked: “How many names were recommended by a high court collegium but the Supreme Court returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity… How many names were referred by the Supreme Court collegium but the government returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity… How many names were sent back by the Supreme Court collegium after the government returned them on the ground of doubtful integrity?”
The bench asked Rohatgi to give details of all such instances.
The arguments in the case will resume Friday.