'Collegium not the best system to pick judges…': Justice SK Kaul | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

‘Collegium not the best system to pick judges... transparent dialogue needed’: Justice SK Kaul

By, Abraham Thomas, New Delhi
Dec 26, 2023 04:07 AM IST

Justice Kaul also expressed concerns about the government's influence on appointments and the perception of nepotism within the system.

The collegium system of appointing judges to constitutional courts is no longer the best mechanism and the executive and the judiciary ought to come together to formalise a method enabling transparent exchange of views instead of “secretive” or “back-door” consultations, outgoing Supreme Court judge justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has emphasised.

Justice SK Kaul(HT File)
Justice SK Kaul(HT File)

Associated with the issue of judicial appointments on the administrative as well as judicial side, justice Kaul told HT in an interview that the unsatisfactory working of the collegium system could be attributed to the judges involved in making the recommendations amid the government’s relentless insistence on having a say in the process.

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Justice Kaul, who retired as the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court on December 25, was a member of the Supreme Court collegium for over a year, during which more than a dozen judges in the apex court were appointed and a record number of proposals for transfer of high court judges were made. On the judicial side, justice Kaul led a bench that kept the central government on its toes over delays in clearing the recommendations made by the collegium for appointment and transfer of judges.

READ | Don’t pick and choose judges, SC tells Centre

The judge, who served for over 22 years in constitutional courts, lamented that the current system of appointments is leading to the government indirectly vetoing appointments on a variety of reasons, including “small things” such as what a lawyer may have written somewhere or someone he appeared for.

According to justice Kaul, nixing of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) in 2015 even before the alternative to the collegium system could lift off the ground created “a lot of mistrust” between the executive and legislature on one side and the judiciary on the other.

READ | Collegium aims for a diverse bench, to make SC ‘people-centric’: CJI Chandrachud

“If NJAC had been there, possibly the discussion would have been across the table... I believe it would have been more transparent,” he said, adding the NJAC could have been tweaked to make it work.

He further acknowledged that the “uncle judge syndrome” has been a problem with many perceiving that the system of judicial appointments is a bit tilted towards judges’ kin, adding that there should neither be a privilege nor a bar to a judge’s relative being appointed if that person is at least “5-10 % better than the others”.

When there are politically strong governments, pushback is more, acknowledged justice Kaul even as he highlighted that the judiciary must be able to handle these, and that judges must not have any hesitation in passing orders not favourable to the government.

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