Thursday, February 9, 2023

Collegium makes judges extremely busy, impacts their professional duties: Law Minister Kiren Rijiju

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Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has again stirred up the Hornet’s Nest by passing adverse comments against the Supreme Court Collegium system, which is responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges of High Courts and the Apex Court.  

Speaking to a leading radio station on Thursday, Rijiju said the system was keeping the Judges ‘extremely busy’ and taking away their precious time, thus adversely affecting their professional duties.
He recalled that during the Second Judges case in 1993, the Constitutional provisions were undone by the Supreme Court by creating the Collegium system.
The Constitution of India was very clear that the Judges should not be involved in the appointment process, except for the consultation, to be carried by the executive by seeking their opinion, however, now the Judiciary was fully involved in the appointment process of the Judges, noted the Union Minister.
Rijiju further said that in the Second Judges case in 1993, which introduced the Collegium System, the top court of the country had ruled that the word “consultation” in Article 124 of the Constitution of India meant “concurrence” and therefore, the President of India was bound to make a decision (on the appointment of Judges) based on the consultation of the Supreme Court.
Addressing the problems in the Collegium system regarding appointment of Judges, the Union Minister observed that the Judiciary and other stakeholders lacked understanding about the spirit of the Constitution.
He further explained that the Constitution was very clear that the President of India shall appoint judges in consultation with the Chief Justice. There could be some consultations with other stakeholders, he added.
However, he assured that till the time the Collegium System would prevail, the Central government would abide by it. 
The Minister also expressed his views on the Memorandum Of Procedure, stating that in case the Supreme Court attempted to change or dilute the MOP through a verdict, then it would pose problems for the Central government, which would request the former against it.
The MOP is an agreement between the judiciary and the government containing a set of guidelines for making appointments to the Supreme Court and High Court.

On January 11, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar had also expressed similar sentiments, stating that public posturing from judicial platforms was not a good thing.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the 83rd All-India Presiding Officers Conference in Jaipur, Dhankar had said that he was ‘surprised’ when the Supreme Court told the Attorney General (R. Venkataramani) to convey its displeasure to the constitutional authorities. 

On December 8, during the hearing of a case related to the appointment of Judges, the Apex Court, after taking exception to certain comments made by the Executive regarding the Collegium system, asked the Attorney General to advise the government functionaries to exercise restraint, while voicing their opinion on such issues.

Dhankar further talked about the Supreme Court judgment which overturned the NJAC, stating that all organs of the State must confine themselves to their respective domains.

Stating that the legislature was not supposed to discuss a court verdict. In a similar way, the court should also not legislate. These institutions must know how to conduct themselves, he added.

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