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Centre, Supreme Court face off over collegium system

New Delhi :A slew of suggestions, including provision for a well-defined criteria for prospective judges, were today mooted before the Supreme Court by various lawyers for improving the revived collegium system of appointments in higher judiciary.

The government suggested that “the minutes of the collegium meeting must be subject to RTI Act. The candidates must disclose membership of any political party. Rules/guidelines must be prescribed for selection of candidates to ensure transparency.”

“There must be well-defined criteria that should be established by the Supreme Court for appointments to the High Courts and to the Supreme Court. The criteria must refer to age, merit, seniority, integrity, income criteria, academic qualification,” one of the suggestions collated by senior lawyer Arvind Datar and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, is hearing the lawyers who have compiled the suggestions received from the common public and various bar bodies.

The Centre has suggested a three-step procedure, to be made known publicly, of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts that comprises the recommendation and appointment through a consultative participatory exercise.

“There should be an Annual Report on appointments which should be publicly available. All procedures of the collegium must be recorded in writing and transferred to the National Archives of India after 30 years for use by scholars.

“A panel of eligible candidates must be prepared in advance and appointment may be made through this panel. Before names are finalised, there should be an informal consultative meeting with the Chief Minister to avoid delay in the clearance of files. An IB report regarding the candidates must be obtained before the name is sent by the High Court collegium to the Supreme Court,” the government suggested.

It further recommended that only candidates whose names are cleared should be sent to the Supreme Court.

On the issue of increasing retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years, the apex court rejected the proposal to fix minimum qualification criteria for appointment of judges.