In the midst of a face-off between the judiciary and the Centre over the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, a senior judge of the Supreme Court has stopped attending meetings of the collegium. Justice J. Chelameswar has said he finds the procedure most opaque and the majority gangs up to shoot down objections against undeserving candidates.
The revelation made by Justice Chelameswar to the Times of India is likely to complicate matters further between the judiciary and the Centre, which is locked in a battle over the appointment of judges and the Memorandum of Procedure.
It may be recalled that OneIndia had recently reported that the Intelligence Bureau had flagged four names suggested by the collegium for appointment as judges.
The IB had said in the case of one name that he had not argued any major case, while in the case of two others, it had left the intergirty column blank.
In the case of another, the IB had said that he had lived with his brother whose name figured in the Essar tapes scandal.
Legal experts say that the statements by Justice Chelameswar will have an impact on the ongoing tussle between the Centre and the judiciary.
An official in the Law ministry says that the Memorandum of Procedure was brought out to ensure transparency in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
"We are awaiting the nod the Chief Justice of India on this", the officer said, adding that it had been sent for approval in August.
Centre's stand vindicated
Justice Chelameswar was the only judge who had recorded his dissent while the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
While the NJAC Act was struck down, the Bench had suggested to the Centre to come up with an MoP to ensure transparency in the appointment of judges.
There are several points made by the Centre that the judiciary is not agreeable to. Recently, the Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur had issued a warning to the Centre in the court over the issue.
Justice Chelameswar says he has written a letter to the CJI stating he would not attend the collegium's meetings henceforth. The system of selection of judges is not at all transparent, he has said.
Senior advocate Sadashiv Naik says that it is now time for the judiciary to take note and go through with the MoP.
Justice Chelameswar's statements are a reminder that the appointment process needs to be more transparent.
The Centre and the judiciary need to sit across the table and iron out differences and there is no point in letting ego stand in the way, Naik said.
A senior Law ministry official said that "while this is an internal matter of the judiciary, it also shows that the process of appointments need to change and be more transparent. We have made suggestions in the draft MoP but are yet to hear back from the CJI. We have agreed to several suggestions made by the judiciary. Hope our suggestions are taken onboard, too."
It will be interesting to see what transpires in the court later this month when the CJI hears the matter on judicial appointments after the Centre files its