These are times when the judiciary could be seen to be under attack by the executive. The public looks up to it as the court of last resort for protection from various dangers, some clear and present, others nebulous. It lives in the “interesting times” that the famous Chinese curse refers to. And yet, the chief justice of India has found time for the human touch, welcoming with chocolates and flowers the first children in the creche promoted by the Bar Association. Mooted in January this year, this is a commendable move to protect the careers of women lawyers and law officers.
Besides, having defended the right to appoint judges by declaring the National Judicial Appointments Commission unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has not simply fallen back on the default option of the collegium system. It has acknowledged that it is short of perfect, and has now taken the unprecedented step of inviting public opinion for its
betterment. Transparency is precisely what the system is seen to lack, and the judiciary cannot afford to be seen as a private club that appoints its own office-bearers behind closed doors. Narrowing the perceived gap between the public and the judiciary, and making the public a stakeholder in its processes rather than merely a consumer of its services, will have a salutary influence.
The pros and cons of the collegium system will continue to be debated, but canvassing the public over and above lawyers — who have asked for more time — will reduce the waiting period until the appointments process can be credibly rebooted. There are hundreds of judicial positions waiting to be filled, and the court has done the
right thing. It has brought openness and speed to the process, precisely the features the judiciary is seen to lack.