The CJI at Justice Banerjee’s farewell: The collegium chooses the best

According to Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, women lawyers from the Supreme Court aren’t being considered for a seat on the bench because the Collegium doesn’t care about getting good people, but the collegium always picks the best.

“The Collegium always picks the best,” said the Chief Justice of India, speaking at a farewell for retired Justice Indira Banerjee organized by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). CJI was responding to SCBA president Vikas Singh’s comments.

Singh said that with Justice Banerjee’s retirement, “we are losing a very fine judge”. It was once the case that there were four lady judges. Now we will have three lady judges again. In addition to filling 2-3 Supreme Court vacancies with lady lawyers, I also appeal to the CJI to make sure every High Court in the country has at least one lady judge. Patna High Court has no lady judge and there are so many good lawyers practicing there who are willing to go…but, sadly, because of the system we are following today, the Collegium system does not care about acquiring good people, the best people, so these elevations do not occur.

SCBA has long advocated for the elevation of more lawyers to the Supreme Court and High Court.

The CJI described Justice Banerjee’s “calm, quiet composure” as “exemplary and immense.” He recalled some of her important judgments, including the one where a five-judge Constitution bench held that a majority judgment by a larger bench always prevails over a unanimous decision by a smaller bench. It was a “beautiful judgment”, according to him.

When she first set foot in the Supreme Court 34-36 years ago “as a shy, diffident junior, coming from the Calcutta High Court to do a case”, Justice Banerjee said, “I never thought I would be here to address a farewell speech one day”.

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