[Answered] Do you think that the Collegium system is in urgent need of reforms? Give reasons for your opinion.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain why the Collegium system is in urgent need of reforms.  Also write its significance.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

At present, the collegium comprises of CJI (Chief Justice of India) and 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. It is the system which makes decisions regarding appointments/elevation of judges to the Supreme Court, High Courts, and transfers of judges of the High Courts.

Urgent need of reforms:

  • Autocratic: Collegium has been evolved by the judiciary itself for retaining the power to select judges by itself.
  • Social Background of Judges:  The collegium system prefers practising lawyers rather than appointing and promoting “judges of the subordinate judiciary,” which often comprises a diverse pool of candidates. Thus, the composition of the high courts becomes, literally, an “old boys’ club” featuring largely male, upper-caste, former practising lawyers.
  • Opaque and Unaccountable System: The lack of information about the appointment of judges, including the criteria based on which the judges make their choice. The judges are not accountable to the people and representative of peoples i.e. executive or legislative.
  • Promotes nepotism:Sons and nephews of previous judges or senior lawyers tend to be popular choices for judicial roles.
  • Against established conventions:The convention of seniority has long been held as the procedure for appointments but supersession ignores and abdicates this convention, creating space for subjectivity and individual bias in appointments.

Significance:

  • Impartial and independent functioning: It separates the judiciary from the influence of the executive and legislative. So, the collegium system strengthens the principle of separation of powers.
  • State is the main litigant:About 46% of total cases pending in India relate to the government. If the power to transfer the judges is given to the executive, then the fear of transfer would impede justice delivery.
  • Political vulnerability: The government handling the transfers and appointments is prone to nepotism. For example, the civil servants were transferred for political gains.
  • Provides stability: The executive organ is not a specialist or does not have the knowledge regarding the requirements of the Judge.

Way forward:

  • The NJAC should be amended to make sure that the judiciary retains independence in its decisions.
  • A written manual should be released by the Supreme Court which should be followed during appointments.
  • Apart from reforming the collegium system, the quality of judges can also be improved through the implementation of All India Judicial Services (AIJS).
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