Hold tests, interviews to select judges, Supreme Court urged

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The Supreme Court’s invitation to the general public for suggestions to improve the “opaque” collegium system for selection of judges to the SC and high courts saw nearly 3,000 people offering their advice with a majority advocating written test followed by interview for selecting judges.
Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand and senior advocate Arvind Datar were told by a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar to compile the suggestions received by the law ministry, which was asked to post on its website an open invitation to the general public to post their suggestions by November 13.

After compiling the suggestions and categorizing them under various heads, the law officer found that a majority of suggestions was on the qualification and quality of persons who should be appointed as judges of constitutional courts.
Many also advocated that the All India Judicial Service Examination should be revived for selection of judges, Anand told TOI.

“There are many suggestions advocating special quota for women and members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the selection of judges. However, a majority of suggestions was against any quota for other backward classes and minority communities,” she added.

A sizeable number of suggestions also advocated appointment of noted scholars and jurists as judges of the SC and HCs. People also suggested that judicial officers with more than 10 years experience and advocates with 10 to 20 years experience at bar should be considered for appointment as judges of HC.

An overwhelming view that stood out from the public suggestions was that there should be a permanent secretariat for the collegium. “The secretariat should have a fully funded data gathering and investigating wing which should thoroughly cross-check the credentials and antecedents of each person shortlisted for selection as a judge of the SC or HCs,” Anand said.

On November 5, the five-judge bench also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel had taken the unprecedented step of inviting views of general public for improvement of the collegium system which has been widely criticized for being non-transparent. The SC has taken up the task to improve the collegium system after striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission, terming it unconstitutional.

The apex court had wrested from the executive the constitutional power to select judges through two judgments in 1993 and 1998. In its 1998 judgment, the SC had evolved the collegium system without inviting views from the public. This is the first occasion when the SC has involved the general public in its affairs, especially in the critically important issue of selection of judges.

SOURCE: TIMES OF INDIA

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