Former Chief Justice N V Ramana stated that concerns raised by different parties, including the Government, about the functioning of the Supreme Court collegium system, couldn’t be ignored or dismissed.
Ex-CJI stated that the Supreme Court had passed a series of judgments declaring that the collegium system was necessary to protect the independence of the judiciary. However, he added that the Bench is only one of many involved in the process.
Ramana stated that there is no institutional mechanism to ensure diversity on the Bench in the judiciary.
Online, he spoke on the topic of “Cultural Diversity and the Law Profession” at the National Cultural Diversity Summit for Asian Australian Lawyers’Association Inc.
The ‘Collegium system’ is India’s way of appointing judges to high courts and the Supreme Court. This allows five of the highest-ranking judges to decide who should be appointed to the judiciary.
“The Supreme Court issued a series of judgments declaring that the Collegium system was necessary to protect the independence and exempt the executive from the judiciary. The fact is, however, that the Bench is only one of many involved in this process.
“Many authorities are involved. This includes the central or state Government. Many concerns have been raised by different parties, including the Government, lawyers’ organizations, and civil society, about the functioning of India’s collegium system. These concerns cannot be ignored and merit serious consideration, Ramana stated.
Kiren Rijiju, the Law and Justice Minister, suggested last month that the collegium system should be rethought to speed up the appointment process to the higher judiciary. There are still concerns about the current process.
He stated that the system in place was causing problems and that everyone knew about it.
In 2014, the NDA government tried to reform the system for appointing judges. The 2014 National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC Act) would have given the executive a significant role in appointing higher judiciary judges. The Supreme Court overturned it in 2015.
Ramana stated Saturday that the diversity at the Bench has led to a diversity in opinions. “One that is built on their different experiences in this world.”
They may be able to see the different impacts of a particular judgment or legislation on different sections or communities of society more clearly.
“But beyond that, representation at the Bench has an important feature: it makes people feel like they are inside the system, and not outsiders whose fates are being decided by someone unknown.” He said that it has a significant signalling effect”.
Ramana stated that he tried to get judges of diverse backgrounds appointed.
“During my tenure as Chief Justice of India, I attempted to ensure diversity on the Bench through our recommendations. Nearly all of our recommendations were approved by the Government of India.
“I am proud to say that our recommendations led to appointing the highest number of women judges at the Supreme Court of India. He also stated that India would be the first country to have a woman chief justice of India.