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‘Judges’ appointment should be criteria-based, transparent’

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New Delhi: A number of eminent people representing a cross section of society on Tuesday advocated a criteria-based and transparent process in selecting judges for higher judiciary in which civil society too should have a presence.

Making the judicial appointment criteria-based, transparent and accountable, several eminent people that included apex court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, co-founder of Association for Democratic Rights Jagdeep Chhokar, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative director Maja Daruwala and others said it should be a process that people know about.

Participating in a seminar organised by the NGO Common Cause on “Collegium Reforms: the Way Ahead”, they said judiciary may not be within the purview of the Right to Informatioin Act, but it should be a process that people know about.

Welcoming the Supreme Court’s call to people to give their inputs to improve the working of the collegium system, Kamini Jaiswal said a lawyer should not be made the judge of a high court where he has been practising, as it may create a situation of conflict of interest.

“A lawyer practising in a high court ought not to be appointed as a judge of that high court …even if they try to arise above personal consideration (arising from their familiarity with the lawyers, with whom they had shared chambers)… yet he is a human being. So many are not above board.”

Nikhil Dey of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information advocated some form of open hearing not necessarily akin to hearing by the Senate in US that takes place before important appointments, including judicial, are made.

A participant suggested that these hearing which can be conducted by the collegium should be videographed and be made available to public after three years. It will reveal the questions that the members of the collegium had asked the candidate aspiring to be the judge.

“Both should be at test — candidate (aspiring to be a judge) and the members of the collegium,” he said.

Jagdeep Chhokar of the Association for Democratic Rights felt that the time given by the apex court inviting the views from public was very short.

“Judiciary does not know what it means to collect the public opinion. They must give time,” Chhokar said.

Eminent journalist Prem Shankar Jha said that besides testing other abilities of a candidate, his scholarship too should be tested. It should be seen if such a candidate has contributed scholarly article in law magazines.

A participant said that in the course of the appointment of a judge it should be seen if the person under consideration had an independent bent of mind, was efficient, assessment of the quality of judgment delivered by him, diversity (from the court’s point of view) and his personality. He said that these attributes should form the part of the eligibility criteria.

On the permanent secretariat, one of the participants raised the question of where would it be situated, who would be manning it and how will it function.

He said that it should not become something like bureaucracy in the government as those manning it would be permanent and judges would be temporary.