Don't run down collegium system: CJI Lodha

New Delhi


Supreme Court Chief Justice R.M. Lodha Monday frowned at a campaign to run down the collegium system for appointing judges to the higher judiciary, saying it was causing damage to an important organ of the State.

In the course of a hearing of a plea by a bench that includes him and Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Chief Justice Lodha said: "This is a campaign against judiciary... (it) is bringing disrepute to the judiciary and damaging an important organ of the State."

"We may have our problem. No system is perfect. No one is perfect. Society is not perfect. We are all from society," he said, cautioning the critics, "Don't shake the confidence of the people in the judiciary".

The government Monday introduced two bills in the Lok Sabha to replace the collegium system of appointing judges and to reform the judiciary.

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014, and the Constitution One Hundred and Twenty-First Amendment Bill.

Chief Justice Lodha took exception to a campaign going "all-over" that the collegium system has not delivered.

Defending the collegium system, Chief Justice Lodha said he was the first of the judges to be appointed under the collegium system.

At present, all the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts are products of the collegium system, he said.

"If the collegium system has failed, then the products too have failed and the entire system has failed," he said, deriding all those who see nothing but shortcomings in the collegium system.

"(For) god's sake, don't bring a writ petition on a non-existent fact", he said, as the entire case is founded on an assumption that the collegium had recommended Justice K.L. Manjunath - a judge of the Karnataka High court - as chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Chief Justice Lodha referred to an erroneous media report which said the apex court sticks to its recommendation on Justice Manjunath. He said this reflects the credibility of the media.

The court's strong disapproval of the way people - including Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju - were pointing holes at the collegium system came as it took up for hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by advocate Ram Shankar seeking declaration that the recommendation for appointing Justice Manjunath as chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was against the verdict of the apex court in the judges case.

Seeking that all details, including inputs and objections with respect to appointment and elevation of judges, and those to be made in future, be put on the website of the Supreme Court, the PIL said the Centre should be restrained from proceeding with the appointment of Justice Manjunath as reiterated by the collegium.

"Who told you that Justice Manjunath has been recommended for appointment as chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court? What is the source of your information," Chief Justice Lodha asked the counsel appearing for the petitioner.

"You believe all reports in the media and press," asked Chief Justice Lodha, when the counsel said reports to that affect had appeared in the media.

"I am the Chief Justice of India. I don't know of any such recommendation having been made by the collegium. The entire matter is founded on an erroneous presumption," Chief Justice Lodha said.

"I don't know if there is another Chief Justice of India with collegium," he said.

Making things clear further, Chief Justice Lodha said the PIL could have gone before another bench "but I decided to hear it as I know the facts of the collegium meeting".

"I have not recommended the elevation of Justice Manjunath as chief justice of the high court," he said, asking the petitioner: "For god's sake, don't bring writ petitions on non-existent facts." - IANS