What is Collegium System? Know about appointment of judges in India
Why in News?
Recently the apex court questioned the Government of India about the delay in clearing of the collegium recommendations for the judicial appointments to high courts.
Constitution on Appointment of Judges
Article 124(2): This article of the Indian Constitution reads that the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President after consultation with such a number of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.
Article 217: Indian Constitution's article states that the Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Collegium: Evolution of the System
First Judges Cases (1981):
- In this case, it was announced that the primacy of the Chief Justice of India (CJI)s recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused on logical reason basis.
- The executive got primacy over the Judiciary for judicial appointments. This continued for the coming 12 years after that.
The case of Second Judges:
- The case took place in 1993.
- The Supreme court introduced a collegium system. It said that consultation meant concurrence in appointments.
- After this, the CJIs individual opinion was not taken but an institutional opinion was formed after consulting two more senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
The Third Judges case:
- This happened in 1998.
- After the President suggested, the Supreme Court expanded the collegium to a five-member body rather than 3. It included the Chief Justice of India along with 4 senior-most judges.
- The High Court collegium is led by the Chief Justice there along with four other senior-most judges of the court.
What is a collegium?
The Collegium System is that under which appointments and promotion and transfer of the judges of the Supreme Court are decided by a forum which consists of the Chief Justice of India plus four of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
No such mention (of the Collegium) has been made either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
Process for the appointment of Chief Justice of India:
- It is the President of India, who appoints the CJI and the other judges in the Supreme Court.
- It has been a practice that the exiting CJI would recommend his successor.
- It is strictly a rule that the CJI would only be chosen on a seniority basis. This has happened after the controversy of 1970.
Process of appointment of the High Court
- The Chief Justice of the high court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Governor.
- The collegium decides on the judge’s appointment and the proposal is sent to the chief minister, who would then advice the Governor and the proposal for appointment would be sent to the Law Minister in the Union Government.
How does the collegium system work?
- The Collegium has to send it’s recommendations of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium.
- The Central Government investigates the names and resends the file to the Collegium for reconsideration.
- In case the collegium considers the names, suggestions that had been made by the Central Government, it resends the file to the government for final approval.
- In such a case, the government has to give its assent to the names.
- The only loophole is that the time limit is not fixed for the government to send its reply.
It is now time to think if a permanent solution to institutionalize the process with adequate safeguards to preserve the judiciary's independence guaranteeing judicial primacy. It should ensure independence, reflect the diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.