Explained | The workings of the Supreme Court collegium

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | The workings of the Supreme Court collegium” published in The Hindu on 7th August 2022.

What is the News?

The Chief Justice of India(CJI) N.V. Ramana’s tenure is ending soon. The Collegium under this CJI has been particularly successful. They recommended numerous judicial appointments and scripted history by getting nine Supreme Court judges appointed in one go. Of the nine, Justice B.V. Nagarathna is in line to be the first woman CJI in 2027.

What is the Collegium System?

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How are judicial appointments to the Supreme Court made?

The appointment of the CJI and judges of the apex court is governed by a Memorandum of Procedure. The CJI and the judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President under Article 124(2) of the Constitution. 

Appointment of CJI: As per protocol, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is designated as the CJI. The process starts with the Union Law Minister seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI for his successor.

– Once the CJI recommends, the Law Minister forwards the communication to the Prime Minister who would advise the President on the appointment.

Appointment of Supreme Court Judges: For this, the proposal is initiated by the CJI. The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs. The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file.

– The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.

What are the criticisms against the collegium?

1) Opaqueness and a lack of transparency, 2) Scope for nepotism and 3) Overlooks several talented junior judges and advocates.

What are the attempts to reform the appointment system?

An attempt was made to replace the collegium with a ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission’ (through Ninety-ninth Amendment Act,2014). But was struck down by the apex court in 2015 on the ground that it posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary.

Has the increase in judicial appointments lowered the pendency in the Supreme Court?

The increase in the number of judges has not guaranteed lower pendency of cases in the apex court over the years. The number of pending cases has risen to 71,411 as of August 1, 2022, from a little over 55,000 in 2017. This is despite the fact that the sanctioned judicial strength of the court was increased to 34 judges in August 2019. 

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