A committee of two Supreme Court Judges will henceforth evaluate the judgments of Additional Judges of High Courts to decide whether they should be promoted as permanent judges. This marks a departure from the earlier practice of their performance being reviewed by High Court Judges. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium on Thursday.
The Collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, partially modified its March 3, 2017 order, by which it had done away with the professional evaluation of Additional Judges — a practice which has been in place since 2010.
As per the guidelines issued by then Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia in October 2010, a committee was to be constituted by High Court Chief Justices for evaluating the judgments of Additional Judges. Since it was a committee of High Court Judges, this was seen as a kind of peer review. In March, the Collegium ended this practice. While reviving the system of professional evaluation, the Collegium’s decision on Thursday rejects peer review, as the committee will now comprise Supreme Court Judges.
Significantly, the government had recently urged the Collegium to have a relook at the decision to end the practice of evaluating the performance of Additional Judges. “The Collegium had unanimously taken a decision on 3rd March, 2017 to withdraw with immediate effect the last sentence of guideline No.2 issued by the then Chief Justice of India on 30th October, 2010, regarding constitution of Judgment Committees by Chief Justices of High Courts for assessment/ evaluation of judgments of Additional Judges of High Courts for purpose of determining their suitability for appointment as Permanent Judges. The decision was communicated to the Minister for Law & Justice by the then Chief Justice of India by DO letter No. CC/HC/2017/2251A dated April 16, 2017,” said a note of the Collegium proceedings uploaded on the Supreme Court’s website.
“Regard being had to the necessity of assessment of judgments and also bearing in mind the principle that peers should not be judged by peers, the Collegium, in partial modification of its earlier decision taken on 3rd March, 2017, has decided that the judgments of Additional Judges of the High Courts shall be called for from the Chief Justices of the concerned High Courts, and the same shall be evaluated by the Committee of two Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court, other than consultee-Judges, to be nominated by the Chief Justice of India,” it added.
This means Supreme Court judges who have been consulted with regard to recruitment of the Additional Judges won’t be part of the committee. On June 6, the Minister for Law and Justice had made certain suggestions regarding appointment of three Additional Judges as permanent judges in the Chhattisgarh High Court. The Collegium took the decision on Thursday after considering these suggestions.