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The famous “open rebellion” press conference held by the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court last year, was justified because it helped make the system more open. It was a measure of last resort after several informal efforts to resolve matters within the Collegium failed.

This was a view expressed by retired Judge Madan B Lokur, at a seminar on “State of The Indian Judiciary”, held at the Constitution Club of India on Wednesday.

Other salient points mentioned by him were:

  • Judges should not be hermits or sit in ivory towers. As such there should be no bar on the CJI from inviting the PM for any function to the Supreme Court
  • The recent appointment of two new judges to the Supreme Court over an earlier recommendation showed a lack of transparency.
  • A line should be drawn against post-retirement appointments. But for example if there is a requirement that the chairman of the Human Rights Commission should be a former Supreme Court judge then it should be followed unless the law is changed. But “I would not accept a governorship or  membership of the Rajya Sabha.”
  • If anybody sits on a judge’s appointment, Executive or Judiciary, it could be because of bias or favouritism. A time limit should be placed beyond which a candidate should be considered appointed.
  • The whole Collegium system works well but it needs tweaking and the Memorandum of Procedure in appointment of judges needs to be clarified and the loophole plugged because there is very little even CJI can do if Executive sits indefinitely on a proposed appointment.
  • The NJAC judgment called for a Secretariat to provide detailed information to the SC. This has not been implemented.

Lokur insisted that the judges should not be considered hermits, or perceived to be sitting in an ivory tower and the interaction between the CJI and the PM should be more fluid. In fact, he emphasized that the CJI should invite PM for any function at the Supreme Court.

Responding to a question regarding the controversy around the recent appointments of two SC judges by the Collegium, Lokur said, “The whole Collegium system works well, but it needs tweaking and the Memorandum of Procedure in appointment of judges needs to be clarified”. He added that loopholes should be plugged, as there is very little even the CJI could do if the Executive sits indefinitely on a proposed appointment.

Lokur emphasized on transparency in every function of the Supreme Court and cited that it was absent in the recent appointments of two new judges to the Supreme Court, as the earlier recommendations were overruled abruptly. He also talked about the National Judicial Commission (NJAC) judgment to establish a Secretariat to provide detailed information to the SC, though it has not been implemented yet.

In response to the post-retirement query, Lokur said that a line should be drawn regarding the appointments, but he cited that if there is a requirement that the chairman of the Human Rights Commission should be a former Supreme Court judge then it should be followed unless the law is changed. Lokur said that he would not accept any lucrative posting post retirement. “I would not accept a governorship or membership of the Rajya Sabha,” he added.

To another question, Lokur said that judges’ appointments should not be held up either by the Executive or Judiciary as it would cast aspersions on the state of affairs, and might lead to bias or favouritism. “A time limit should be placed beyond which a candidate should be considered appointed,” said Lokur, who seemed to be at ease during the entire discussion.

Towards the end of the interaction, to a journalists query whether the media were free to criticise the judgements of the courts, Lokur responded “Why not?”

“But won’t we then be hauled up for contempt and locked up behind bars?”, the journalist persisted.

“Please remember that the truth is the best defence against any kind of defamation”, said Lokur.

Absoloutely Your Honour!!!

 

—By India Legal Bureau

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