Collegium and RTI
#GS-02 Indian Judiciary
Evolution of Collegium:
- Article 124 of constitution says that “Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.”
First Judges Case, 1982:
- In this judgement the Supreme Court held that the “primacy” of the CJI’s (Chief Justice of India) recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”
Second Judges Case (1993):
- Supreme Court held that under article 124 “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.
- Supreme court also stipulated that CJI’s opinion alone is not enough and a collegium consisting of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court must give the recommendation.
Third Judges Case (1998):
- Supreme Court expanded the collegium to CJI along with four senior most Judges of Supreme Court.
National Judicial Appointments Commission
- National Judicial Appointments Commission was created by the Ninety-Ninth Constitutional Amendment Act of 2014.
Composition of NJAC
- The Chief Justice of India
- 2 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court
- The Law Minister of India
- 2 eminent members that are chosen by the Selection Committee
Fourth Judges Case (2015):
- Also known as National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC) case.
- Supreme Court declared NJAC as unconstitutional and independence of Judiciary as a basic structure of the Constitution.
RTI and Collegium:
- The Supreme Court on 09th December 2022 held that only the final decisions of the top court Collegium need to be published in the public domain.
- A “final decision” of the Collegium would mean a resolution drawn and signed by all the Collegium members after due deliberations among them, and post consultations among the other Supreme Court judges.
- “Tentative” decisions of the Collegium, before the required deliberative and consultative processes are concluded, need not be put in the public domain via publication on the Supreme Court website nor do they come under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Criticisms of Collegium System:
- India is the only country where the existing Judges select their successors/colleagues.
- The collegium system can be seen as violating the principle of separation of powers.
- It is a highly opaque system which reduces transparency and accountability.