NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday criticised the Collegium System of appointing judges and reiterated that the appointment of judges took place despite adverse Intelligence Bureau reports and severe comments by its own judges questioning their ability and integrity in some cases.
Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi submitted to the court a list of a few names running into 10 pages with comments from the IB, the government and the apex court judges to buttress the point that when the Collegium insisted on such recommendations, the government was bound to accept them. “Sometimes, we are forced to choose somebody,” Rohatgi told the court.
“The Collegium did not follow the principle of meritocracy in appointing judges and hence, many undeserving persons were appointed as judges,” Rohatgi told the Constitution Bench. He said that in one instance the President himself noted in his own handwriting and returned the recommended names for fresh consideration. The matter relates to the appointment of two judges to Jammu and Kashmir High Court wherein the apex court Collegium recommended one name for appointment as judge while withholding the other name when the reservation in both the cases was the same. And the then President K R Narayanan had returned the recommendations for reconsideration noting that both stood on the same footing.
Citing various instances, Rohatgi told the court that in one instance, a former Chief Justice of India, just a few months before his retirement, sought recommendation from the Chief Justice of a High Court of an Eastern Indian state, of a name that was discussed and declined by the Collegium earlier. “
He said that this “case had nothing to do with any adverse comments (either by the IB or by apex court judges) but some other principles were operating.”
On the plea that the appointments were insisted upon by the Collegium, the Bench said, “You (Centre) had all the means. What was the IB doing? It is not the job of the IB to choose a man of choice...”.
The government furnished this information to the court after it had sought to know in how many cases the Collegium reiterated recommendations despite adverse reports and government returning them.
The AG told the court that in one case there were reservations in respect of a proposed name allegedly for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and in another there was a question on the integrity of the proposed name. As the AG referred to the reservations expressed by the apex court judges in respect of some names, Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, heading the Constitution Bench observed that these were general in nature and there was nothing concrete in them.
Rohatgi also raised the issue of seniority being considered over efficiency.
AG Cites Madras High Court Issue
Referring to a recent incident of Madras High Court where a judge issued a contempt notice to the Chief Justice of the High Court, he said, “Many judges appointed by Collegium are creating havoc in the country. They do not follow the decorum and discipline.