A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has dismissed a petition seeking review of its 1993 judgment in the Second Judges Case that introduced the Collegium system for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohinton Fali Nariman, R Banumathi, U U Lalit, A M Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan, considered the petition in chambers and rejected it, noting that there has been “an inordinate delay of 9071 days in seeking a review”.
“Though the present petition is liable to be dismissed on the ground of delay itself, yet we have carefully gone through the review petition and the papers connected therewith,” the bench said while rejecting the plea on grounds of delay and merits of the case.
The petition filed by Mumbai-based National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms had sought review of the 1993 judgment in the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and Another vs. Union of India, also known as the Second Judges Case.
A review petition of a ruling is allowed within thirty days of the date of judgment and on specific grounds. Reviews, except in cases of death penalty, are heard by circulation of the file between judges and without oral arguments.
In the Second Judges Case, the Supreme Court said that the office of the Chief Justice of India would have primacy over the government in recommending names of judges to the President for appointment and transfer but that recommendation, virtually binding on the executive, could only be made in consultation with the two most senior judges of the court — the introduction of the Collegium system.
In December 2018, the Supreme Court had also rejected a similar petition filed by the same group seeking a review of its October 2015 ruling that declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act as unconstitutional. The NJAC Act was also a legislation brought to give the government a greater say in appointment of judges. With the court striking down the legislation, the Collegium system was revived.