Debate over the collegium system
GS Paper - 2 (Polity)
Union Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju said the collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary needs to be reconsidered in view of the concerns about the process. Rijiju’s statements reopen a longstanding debate over the process of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts of India.
What is the collegium system?
- It is the way by which judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are appointed and transferred.
- The collegium system is not rooted in the Constitution or a specific law promulgated by Parliament; it has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court collegium is a five-member body, which is headed by the incumbent Chief Justice of India (CJI) and comprises the four other senior most judges of the court at that time.
- A High Court collegium is led by the incumbent Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court. By its very nature, the composition of the collegium keeps changing, and its members serve only for the time they occupy their positions of seniority on the Bench before they retire.
- Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system, and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.
- The role of the government in this entire process is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
What does the Constitution say on the appointment of judges?
- Articles 124(2) and 217 of the Constitution deal with the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.
- The appointments are made by the President, who is required to hold consultations with “such of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court’s” as he may think is needed. But the Constitution does not lay down any process for making these appointments.